Managing an 'Army of Peoples': Identity, Command and Performance in the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1914-1918

Watson, Alexander. 2016. Managing an 'Army of Peoples': Identity, Command and Performance in the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1914-1918. Contemporary European History, 25(2), pp. 233-251. ISSN 0960-7773 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article examines the officers who led the Habsburg Army during the First World War. It highlights the complexity of their identities, demonstrating that this went well beyond the a-national – nationalist dichotomy in much historiography. It also argues that these officers’ identities had a profound impact on how their army functioned in the field. The article first studies the senior command in 1914–16, showing how its wartime learning processes were shaped by transnational attitudes. These officers had belonged in peace to an international military professional network. When disaster befell their army at the outset of the First World War, it was natural for them to seek lessons from foreign armies, at first from their major enemies, the Russians, and later their German allies. The second half of the article explores the changing loyalties of the reserve officers tasked with frontline command in the later war years. It contends that the officer corps’ focus on maintaining social and educational standards resulted in an influx of middle-class junior leaders whose conditional commitment to the Empire and limited language skills greatly influenced the Habsburg Army’s record of longevity but mediocre combat performance.

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1 May 2016Published
13 April 2016Published Online
11 January 2016Accepted

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Date Deposited:

25 Jul 2016 11:44

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27 Jun 2017 10:38

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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