Joseph II’s 1782 Edict of Toleration for the Jews of Lower Austria and its Economic and Secular Underpinnings and Effects
Joseph II’s 1782 Edict of Toleration is an important piece of legislation within Austrian and Jewish history. The Edict was a series of statements issued regarding the inclusion of Jewish citizens into larger towns, marking what was permitted, what was to change, and what was prohibited. Created by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, son of the notoriously anti-Jewish Empress Maria Theresia, the legislation was institutionalized in order to make Jewish people more useful economically to the state by granting them access to cities and towns, Christian schools and universities, and by allowing them to set up their own factories. It created secular subjects to achieve economic gains. The Edict can be analyzed for its economic underpinnings and effects, which can be further examined through a micro- and macroscopic lens, as well as viewing the role it had in promoting the toleration and assimilation of Jews. The Edict, despite its failure to achieve its steep economic goals or to fully assimilate Austria’s Jewish community, nonetheless is key to understanding the political, economic, and religious climate of Lower Austria at this time.
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