Joseph II


Joseph II

biographical name

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Joseph II, Holy Roman emperor, detail of a painting by Pompeo Batoni, 1769; in the …—Courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

(born March 13, 1741, Vienna—died Feb. 20, 1790, Vienna) Holy Roman emperor (1765–90). He succeeded his father, Francis I, and initially coruled with his mother, Maria Theresa (1765–80). After his mother's death he tried to continue her work of reform. Considered a practicioner of “enlightened despotism,” he abolished serfdom, established religious equality before the law, granted freedom of the press, and emancipated the Jews. He came into conflict with the Roman Catholic church by attempting to impose state controls over it, and traditional countries such as the Austrian Netherlands and Hungary resisted his far-reaching reforms. His foreign policies were generally failures; he tried to exchange the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria but was stopped by Prussia. An alliance with Catherine II of Russia engaged Austrian troops in a war with Turkey, but Joseph had to return home to head off revolutionary unrest in Hungary and the Austrian Netherlands.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on Joseph II, visit Britannica.com.

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