Franz Josef I or Francis Joseph I (18 August 1830 – 21 November 1916) was Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, and monarch of many other states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, from 2 December 1848 until his death. From 1 May 1850 to 24 August 1866 he was also President of the German Confederation. He was the longest-reigning Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, as well as the fourth-longest-reigning monarch of any country in European history, after Louis XIV of France, Johann II of Liechtenstein, and Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, in descending chronological order.

 

In December 1848, Emperor Ferdinand abdicated the throne at Olomouc, as part of Minister President Felix zu Schwarzenberg's plan to end the Revolutions of 1848 in Hungary. This allowed Ferdinand's nephew Franz Josef to accede to the throne. Largely considered to be a reactionary, Franz Josef spent his early reign resisting constitutionalism in his domains. The Austrian Empire was forced to cede its influence over Tuscany and most of its claim to Lombardy–Venetia to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, following the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859 and the Third Italian War of Independence in 1866. Although Franz Josef ceded no territory to the Kingdom of Prussia after the Austrian defeat in the Austro-Prussian War, the Peace of Prague (23 August 1866) settled the German Question in favour of Prussia, which prevented the Unification of Germany from occurring under the House of Habsburg.

 

Franz Josef was troubled by nationalism during his entire reign. He concluded the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, which granted greater autonomy to Hungary and transformed the Austrian Empire into the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. He ruled peacefully for the next 45 years, but personally suffered the tragedies of the execution of his brother, the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico in 1867, the suicide of his only son and heir-apparent, Crown Prince Rudolf, in 1889, the assassination of his wife, Empress Elisabeth ("Sisi"), in 1898, and the assassination of his nephew and heir-presumptive, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in 1914.

 

After the Austro-Prussian War, Austria-Hungary turned its attention to the Balkans, which was a hotspot of international tension because of conflicting interests with the Russian Empire. The Bosnian Crisis was a result of Franz Josef's annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, which had been occupied by his troops since the Congress of Berlin (1878).

 

On 28 June 1914, the assassination of his nephew and heir-presumptive, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo resulted in Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against the Kingdom of Serbia, which was an ally of the Russian Empire. That activated a system of alliances which resulted in World War I.

 

Franz Josef died on 21 November 1916, after ruling his domains for almost 68 years as one of the longest-reigning monarchs in modern history. He was succeeded by his grandnephew Charles.

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During World War I, the German Empire was one of the Central Powers that lost the war. It began participation in the conflict after the declaration of war against Serbia by its ally, Austria-Hungary. German forces fought the Allies on both the eastern and western fronts, although German territory itself remained relatively safe from widespread invasion for most of the war, except for a brief period in 1914 when East Prussia was invaded. A tight blockade imposed by the Royal Navy caused severe food shortages in the cities, especially in the winter of 1916–17, known as the Turnip Winter. At the end of the war, Germany's defeat and widespread popular discontent triggered the German Revolution of 1918–19 which overthrew the monarchy and established the Weimar Republic.

The German population responded to the outbreak of war in 1914 with a complex mix of emotions, in a similar way to the populations in other countries of Europe; notions of overt enthusiasm known as the Spirit of 1914 have been challenged by more recent scholarship. The German government, dominated by the Junkers, thought of the war as a way to end Germany's disputes with rivals France, Russia and Britain. The beginning of war was presented in Germany as the chance for the nation to secure "our place under the sun," as the Foreign Minister Bernhard von Bülow had put it, which was readily supported by prevalent nationalism among the public. The Kaiser and the German establishment hoped the war would unite the public behind the monarchy, and lessen the threat posed by the dramatic growth of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which had been the most vocal critic of the Kaiser in the Reichstag before the war. Despite its membership in the Second International, the Social Democratic Party of Germany ended its differences with the Imperial government and abandoned its principles of internationalism to support the war effort.

It soon became apparent that Germany was not prepared for a war lasting more than a few months. At first, little was done to regulate the economy for a wartime footing, and the German war economy would remain badly organized throughout the war. Germany depended on imports of food and raw materials, which were stopped by the British blockade of Germany. Food prices were first limited, then rationing was introduced. In 1915 five million pigs were massacred in the so-called Schweinemord to both make food and preserve grain. The winter of 1916/17 was called "turnip winter" because the potato harvest was poor and people ate animal feed including vile-tasting turnips. During the war from August 1914 to mid-1919, the excess deaths over peacetime caused by malnutrition and high rates of exhaustion and disease and despair came to about 474,000 civilians.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

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