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In this article, the imperial idea and civilising missions in the Habsburg Monarchy, mainly of the nineteenth century, are refracted through the prism of the legacy of enlightened absolutism. The article tries to dispel mythologies about its demise around 1800, and about those who could subscribe to its programme throughout the nineteenth century. It questions templates of national history writing which too unanimously connect the Enlightenment to the origins of the various national revivals of the early nineteenth century, and discusses concrete examples of enlightened absolutism’s civilising impulses, among them law, Roman imperial patriotism, and the Catholic religion.
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