Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Military justice in the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Franz Josef I
Okay, it's been a while (99 years), but it's still interesting.

Recently, the Editor wrote elsewhere about Joseph Roth's The Radetsky March, a wonderful novel set in the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. What better way to follow it up than with István Deák's equally wonderful Beyond Nationalism: A Social and Political History of the Habsburg Officer Corps 1848-1918? Interestingly, the book includes a good deal of information about military justice, pointing out, for example, that very few executions were carried out (in some years there were none) and that homosexual acts were punished but not very severely. Minor offenses by officers were typically dealt with by courts of honor rather than courts-martial. Dueling presented some nice questions given the focus on officers' honor: opponents of dueling were themselves viewed with suspicion. "[I]t appears that the army went out of its way to assure its officers that duelling was more advantageous than not duelling." All in all, the image Prof. Deák presents of the officer corps tallies pretty closely with Roth's.

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