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Joseph II

Opposition and Failure

In fiscal matters Joseph was influenced by the physiocrats. He ordered a general reassessment of land preparatory to the imposition of a single land tax. This reform met with widespread opposition. Still more unpopular, however, was his attempt to abrogate local governments, customs, and privileges in his far-flung and multilingual dominions, which he divided into 13 circles centrally administered from Vienna. He even sought to impose German as the sole official language; a multilingual administration seemed irrational to him.

Revolts broke out in Hungary and in the Austrian Netherlands (see Netherlands, Austrian and Spanish); these were subsequently halted during the reign of Leopold II, Joseph's brother and successor, who rescinded Joseph's reforms in these lands. Most of Joseph's reforms did not outlive him. His failure to make them permanent was largely caused by his lack of diplomacy, by his untimely death, by the reaction produced by the French Revolution, and by his unsuccessful foreign policy. Moreover, his scattered and varied lands offered poor conditions for reform.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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