Looking for the National Dream

Ulf Brunnbauer and Ursula Prutsch very kindly invited me to present a paper at the conference they organized on “Looking for the National Dream: Austro-Hungarian Migrants in the Americas in Comparative Perspectives,” held at the Center for Advanced Studies at LMU-Munich in July 2017.

I presented on “The Habsburg Consular Service in Comparative Perspective,” using data from the US National Archives that surveyed global consular services in 1897 and select consular services in 1907, as well as the listings of foreign consuls in the United States published annually in the Register of the Department of State. (Thanks to Natalie Coffman and Kiara Day for their assistance with data entry!) I argued that the Habsburg government did not opt to use their consular service to the extent that most other European governments did, though they were in the process of a significant expansion when World War I began in 1914.

US and European governments used the flexible institution that was the consular service in a variety of ways, but one key use was to maintain ties with migrants living and working abroad. In that sense, the Italian consular service was the most active, and the Habsburg service was headed in that direction in 1914. I pointed out that there were many reasons for not having a large consular service; in particular, because most consular officials worked for fees rather than salaries, they were difficult to control and hold to professional standards. Here’s a comparison of the Italian and Habsburg services in the United States in 1907:

The Habsburg government’s consular presence in the US was slightly higher than average, but well below most large European countries. (Russia’s service was smaller.) For much of the late nineteenth century, the Swedes had the largest US presence: