Expanding Europe: German Borderland Colonization in the Banat of Temesvar, 1716-1847

Timothy Olin, Purdue University


Based on archival research conducted in Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Serbia, the dissertation argues that Habsburg rule, and their desire to settle the Banat of Temesvár (located at the juncture of today’s Romania, Serbia, and Hungary) with German colonists, led to major demographic changes and laid the foundations for the ethno-religious tensions that characterized the region into the twentieth century. The Germans settlers were trans-imperial migrants who left their homes in the Holy Roman Empire for the south-eastern frontier of the Habsburg state. Imperial authorities used German settlers as a means to ensure the stability of the province and to prevent Hungarian-Ottoman collusion. The settlement of these migrants, beginning in the 1710s and lasting until 1820s, led to the government-sponsored displacement and resettlement of many local villages as the authorities attempted to control the demographic layout of the region. Throughout the eighteenth century, the German element of the Banat received many privileges largely denied to other inhabitants including years of tax freedom, land, animals, equipment, and more consideration of their well being in general. In return, the Germans were expected raise the level of “culture” in the region and provide a loyal population in case of Ottoman aggression. Furthermore, there was an interesting ethno-religious dynamic to the settlement as Habsburg authorities supported German Catholic settlers at the expense of local Orthodox people, Jews, and Protestants. The dissertation also charts the creation of a German-settler culture in the region, exploring its ecology, architecture, material culture, written-records, and interactions with local people in a unique map of settlement. This culture was very insular and often defined itself (both at the time and later) in opposition to the culture of the surrounding non-Germanic peoples. Rather than remake the region, as the authorities hoped they would, the Germans instead constructed a frontier society that was shaped by the specific needs of their new environment. In so doing, they came into conflict with the local people of the region, intermittently leading to periods of violent confrontation. ^




Charles Ingrao, Purdue University.

Subject Area

European history

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