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Days 1 & 2: A little bit of who, a little bit of what… a little bit of where?

December 28, 2011

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The Battle of Vienna 1683: LET’S DO IT

The Curious Historian’s not-so-curious and actually quite obvious quintessential tips for essential studying: 

It looks like I should be studying Puritan history.

  1.  A book!  You need to start somewhere, right?  Why not start with an easy one that’s also short and you’ll feel better about how many pages you go through in a day.
  2. Paper!  Take some notes and admire your ability to be so good at attention to detail.
  3. A paperweight.  (One that has a curiously ingenious function of sending you messages when you don’t wish to read about a man wearing a fancy wig– at that moment)
  4. A glass of water.  Because you’re sick, you can’t get appointments with any of your doctors, and it’s also fun to put your notes behind it and watch them magnify, or put the candle behind it and make the flame look bigger.
  5. A candle!  Which serves no purpose other than to smell nice while you zone out because you don’t want to read about those men with silly powdered wigs.
  6. I forgot to include the pen.  You can figure that one out yourself.
  • Notice how there’s no laptop.  No laptop means no Facebook which means no distractions! ehhhh, ehhhh?  That’s when you pick up your paperweight and marvel at its communicative, procrastinative (<- made up word) genius.

Well, that satisfies the “where” of things!  Sorry, no explanations today of the actual places in my research– just the desk in my bedroom.

I began yesterday (in a setting very much like today) my winter break research for the senior thesis.  I chose a very readable book with which to begin that laid out the chronologies, prominent people, and prominent locations of the war.  I am unfamiliar with much of the history of the Battle of 1683 so this was a good start.

Let’s look at what on earth is the “who” of my focus:

In one corner of the ring we have the Holy Roman Empire! (Yay, three cheers for Austrian people!)


Coat of Arms for the House of Habsburg

In the other corner of the ring we have the Ottoman Empire! (What a pretty Ṭuğrā!)

Ṭuğrā of Sultan Mehmed IV

The two big “whos” in my research are the Habsburgs who were the ruling family under the Holy Roman Empire, and the Sultanate of Mehmed IV under the Ottoman Empire.

Here’s a list of people (thus far) who will be running around during the battle.

Holy Roman Empire

  • Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor (1640-1705)
  • John III Sobieski, King of Poland (1629-1696)
  • Charles Sixte, Duke of Lorraine (1643-1690)
  • Count Ernst von Rüdiger von Starhemberg (1638-1701)  <— What a stuffy name!

Ottoman Empire

  • Sultan Mehmed IV (1642-1693)
  • Kara Mustafa Pasha (1634-1683)
  • Count Imre Thököly de Kesmark (1657-1705)

That, for now, takes care of the “who”.  So now let’s talk about “what” on earth the “who” did.

(I occasionally enjoy tongue twisters if you couldn’t tell.)
The Battle of Vienna in 1683 is actually considered one of the most important and biggest battle of all time.  It looks to be a clash of two faiths, of two different cultures, of two different ways of life.  At the time, the Ottoman Empire was struggling to reestablish its once-great rule.  For a few decades Ottoman leadership was declining, due to assassinations, premature death, poor leadership, the like.  When Sultan Mehmed IV was made to rule (before he was ten!), he forever changed the Ottoman sultanate.
Sometimes I’m ashamed to say I don’t know much about Austrian history (then again I don’t know much about American history, either, LOL).  What I do know is that the Holy Roman Empire was losing quite a bit of territory to the Ottomans for awhile.  Leopold I was a staunch Catholic (obviously… he’s a Holy Roman Emperor) who hated Protestants and, as such, wasn’t too friendly with his Hungarian subjects who happened to be Protestant.  I don’t know yet how important Hungary will be in this battle, but I’ve read that there is a Hungarian rebellion in which he grants armistice to after suffering some losses.  The battle itself lasted two days.  But a LOT can happen in two days.
So during this time of the latter 1600s there was a peace treaty.  Back then apparently that meant nothing because the Ottomans decided to go ahead and sack Europe a year before the treaty expired, and the HRE was thinking about keeping those Ottomans at bay right after the treaty would expire.  My aim is to look at the history, cultures, and lifestyles of the two (luckily I know quite a bit about Austrian and Turkish culture and lifestyle) and see how this momentous battle impacted Austrian culture and identity thereafter.
It’s an ambitious project, I don’t deny that.  I wanted there to be something Islamic in my senior thesis.  Sometimes I stray too far into the theology and leave some of the historical stuff behind.  Being a history major, that’s not exactly good when you’re writing a historical thesis– you know, that tiny eighty page paper that lets you graduate college.  So I chose to do something that is and is not in my comfort zone. I looked for something that wasn’t going to be lost in the theological complexities that I love so much (cough Sufism).  So voilà, a battle it was.  Battles are real, they’re physically real.  Stuff happened.  That’s good!  That’s historical.
And then I ask myself why I am documenting this.  I guess it’s a learning process for everyone.  While I study my stuff and write all fancy pantsy, I wouldn’t mind keeping it real.  Keep it understandable for everyone.  If this is one of the most important battles of all time, one of the most important events in history, the why Europe is Christian, then it should be interesting and accessible to anyone regardless of academia.  Someone’s gotta do it.

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