District (Habsburg Monarchy)

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A district was an administrative unit of the Habsburg Monarchy between 1748 and 1867.



After the loss of Silesia to Prussia , it was found that Frederick II brought much higher tax revenues out of the country than its own administration was previously able to do. With Prussia as a model, several administrative reforms by Maria Theresa and Joseph II in the years from 1748 also transferred the old territorial subdivisions to the newly created districts. These reforms were initiated by Maria Theresa's advisor, Count Haugwitz , and continued from 1760 under State Chancellor Count Kaunitz . In essence, the bureaucratisation in the form of district offices resulted in a separation between sovereign and estate administration, which reduced the influence of the estates.

The origin of the district administration lay in Bohemia, where the districts as territorial units (see Bohemia # Old Bohemian districts ) had existed since the 14th century. As a result of the reform, this system has now been further developed and extended to the entire monarchy except Hungary. In Austria above and below the Enns, as well as in Styria, the old quarters were taken as the territorial basis of the districts (see Lower Austria # structure in quarters , Upper Austria # the quarters of Upper Austria , quarter division of Styria 1462 ).

The Hungarian counterparts were the counties , which existed long before and were therefore ruled by the local nobility, unlike the districts.

In the Lombardy-Venetian kingdom there were delegations that correspond to the later Italian provinces .

After 1848

With the creation of the administrative districts or the district offices in the course of the reforms after 1848 , these largely took over the tasks of the district offices. These reforms, proposed in 1849 by Interior Minister Alexander von Bach as part of a reorganization of the administrative apparatus, were necessary because after the abolition of serfdom, more and more individual citizens had approached the authorities. The district administrations thus became the second instance of the administrative districts. A few smaller circles were therefore dissolved or merged.

The statutory cities were also excluded from the district administration, in a similar way as they are not included in the districts today.


With the creation of the political districts in 1868, which goes back to the December constitution of 1867, the district division was abolished and replaced by a much more finely structured district division, but the newly created district authorities were organizationally based strongly on the district administrations.


With the district offices there was an administrative level for the first time, which lay between the manorial lords or the princely cities and the imperial court chamber (or in the crown lands, the gubernial administrations). At the top of each circle was a District Chief , whose officials were entrusted with clearly defined areas of responsibility, which meant a substantial loss of power of the stands on financial matters. The district offices were the lowest authority over everything that fell into the field of political administration. This was linked to the direct supervision of the tax system, as well as the conscription and recruitment system, the supervision of schools and poor houses, the supervision of the individual communities and the protection of the farmers from the landlord. The district chiefs were obliged to visit the district at least once a year or to have the commissioners visit them. For this, the district chiefs received a state salary, but were not allowed to exercise any other lordly or estate offices and were bound by instructions.

The parent of the county offices were the administrative districts .


Despite numerous reforms, the 39 regional electoral districts are still roughly divided into districts from the monarchy . The district courts (now: regional courts ) also essentially correspond to those of the former district offices. The division into 35 NUTS3 regions is also loosely based on the district division.

List of circles

Below is a list of the counties and statutory cities in the non-Hungarian (in later parlance cisleithan ) countries of the monarchy, as of 1854:

Individual evidence

  1. RGBl. 1868/44. Law of 19 May 1868 on the establishment of political administrative authorities (…). In:  Reichs-Gesetz-Blatt für das Kaiserthum Österreich , year 1868, pp. 76–81. (Online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / rgb.
  2. after Helmut Rumpler : Austrian History 1804–1914. An opportunity for Central Europe. Civil emancipation and state collapse in the Habsburg monarchy. Vienna, Ueberreuther, 1997, p. 476/77
  3. Classification before 1848 according to A. Balbis Allgemeine Erdbeschreibung or Hausbuch des Geographischen Wissens, Pest 1842, view from Google Books