On 20-21 October experts from different academic backgrounds met at the Civico Museo Sartorio in Trieste to hold discussions on “The empress cities: urban centres, societies and economies in the age of Maria Theresia von Habsburg”. The speakers of the well-attended event were able to present an ample panorama of the main factors of the remarkable growth of a number of cities belonging to the former Habsburg Empire under the empress and give an unprecedented comparative picture of the urban phenomenon. The great architectural changes of Budapest, the iconography of Prague, the economic developments in Rijeka as well as the urban development of Trieste in the age of Maria Theresia’s reign are just some of the topics presented by distinguished experts from CEI countries, i.e. Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovakia.

While other urban areas belonging to the empire were marked by tensions in their development, the cities under Maria Theresia flourished and provided welfare to its populations. Participants depicted and analysed certain aspects of this growth in distinguished cities. The angle of the evolving cosmopolitan city as well as  the role of foreign and local elites were especially examined, helping to identify ways to mobilise the multicultural identity for the construction of sustainable development in contemporary European cities. The two-day event was an important contribution to promoting intercultural cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe countries.

At the concluding round table session, the experts pointed out the significance of having a new vision of the empirical age, in order to make it understandable and interesting for young generations. The importance of new ideas for tourism and museums was also mentioned, where representatives gave an outlook to upcoming events with regard to the tercentenary birthday of Maria Theresia von Habsburg in 2017.  A Q&A session with the audience complimented the event. A subsequent paper of the symposium will summarise the drawn out parallels between the examined cities and encourage further research to answer questions, as for example, on the untypical practice of the imperial centre under Maria Theresia to invest in non-obviously strategical cities such as Trieste.

The event - organised by the Municipality of Trieste under the patronage of the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Trieste - was co-founded by the CEI Cooperation Fund.
  • Programme available here