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The Austrian domination of Venice and Venetia after the Congress of Vienna has traditionally received a bad press. The Restoration regime was long villifed as oppressive and exploitative, and in direct opposition to the interests of almost all classes of the population. This volume questions this view, arguing from detailed archival research that Francis I's rule brought many real benefits to his Venetian subjects. The root of the remarkable passivity of Venetia in the years after the fall of Napoleon should not be explained in terms of pervasive policing, heavy handed censorship and the presence of Metternich's 'forest of bayonets', but rather by the existence of a fair and responsive, if sometimes cumbersome, administrative structure. Having outlined the origins of Austrian control of Venetia in terms of radical political and territorial changes experienced during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period, this work examines the mechanisms of Austrian rule.
Early chapters focus on the uncomfortable tensions that existed between the temptation to retain a modernised machinery of state inherited from Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy, and the desire to look to models existing in the rest of the Habsburg Monarchy with the aim of creating greater uniformity with the rest of the multinational empire. Various aspects of the Habsburg system are examined to assess the burden of Austrian control in the form of taxation and conscription, and the way in which education, policing, the Church and censorship were used in sometimes surprising ways to attach the Venetian population to their Habsburg masters. Finally, the book addresses the question of what went wrong between the death of Francis I in 1835 and the Venetian insurrection of 1848-9 to alienate the population so radically.