FIN-DE-SIECLE VIENNA: LIVING CONDITIONS OF THE WORKING CLASS

Statistical data of the time just before the outbreak of the First World War still show a considerable amount of children below the age of 14 at work in Vienna. This seems proof of a very slow retreat of child labour in Vienna. The phasing out of child labour was more due to a change in work technology than social protest. Another important impetus for the end of child labour in Vienna was the introduction of the “Reichsvolksschulgesetz” of 1869. This law extended compulsory schooling from six to eight years. Although it has to be noted that the law stipulated several exceptions because especially working class families depended on the income of the children and a loss of this income would have jeopardised their existence. Many working class parents considered obligatory school attendance a nuisance and refused to have the state prescribe what they were supposed to do with their children. Most considered three years of schooling as sufficient. In the late 19th century compliance with obligatory school attendance was the exception rather than the rule in Vienna. Before the turn of the century the authorities executed more rigid supervision, so that by 1900 the start of work for Viennese working class children had been postponed to 12 – 14 years of age.…

THE DIVISION OF EUROPE INTO EAST AND WEST

Map of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Archive S.Wurm

Curiously, one of the things that Europeans have long shared, that has bound them together is a sense of their divisions. The east – west distinction was remarkably well established at a very early time in history. It is sometimes supposed today that the line dividing Eastern from Western Europe was an artificial creation of the Cold War, but that is not so. The division of the continent started with the break-up of the Roman Empire into two distinct parts in the 4th century AD. The emergence of the Carolingian Monarchy reinforced the division by giving the hitherto anarchic western part distinction and enduring frontiers. Charlemagne’s 9th century empire corresponded, curiously enough, with precision the post-war “Europe of Six”; it just left out central and southern Italy and Catalonia. The eastern boundaries of the Carolingian Empire were still imprecise just as the northern borders of Byzantium, but by the 14th century the east-west distinction was well established. Although partly based on prejudices, historical documents confirmed that invisible line that separated east from west. Conradus Celtis in the 15th century recorded a sentiment that was wide-spread in Western Europe since the 10th century: Where the Roman/Carolingian, Lothringian and Hohenzollern empires ended, there ended Europe. An Englishman travelling the Habsburg lands in 1669, Edward Brown, remarked upon entering Hungary that he left his world and entered a land quite different from western countries. Long after the Habsburgs had established effective authority over territories stretching well into today’s Ukraine, Metternich spoke of “Asia beginning at the Landstrasse [a street in the eastern part of Vienna then]”. …