At the beginning of the 18th century, the Hapsburg Empire - an assortment of very diverse territories and peoples - was the largest European country after Tsarist Russia and the old continent's most fascinating and pluralistic organization. But the 1848-49 revolution inaugurated a new age for Vienna, which was forced to address the winning model in the rest of Europe: the nation-state. Gradually, the Austrian empire ended up losing the contest. Defeated by Italy and Germany, in 1867 Franz Joseph I was forced to grant autonomy to Hungary and thus usher in the beginning of the end. Increasing nationalist tensions exasperated the political environment, pitting smaller and larger nations against each other and fanning hatred within national groups. World War I meant the end of the Empire.
Marco Bellabarba teaches Modern History at the University of Trento.