Patrouch Named New Wirth Institute Director

The University of Alberta has appointed Joseph F. Patrouch, formerly of Florida International University, as Director of the Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European Studies following the retirement of its founding Director, Franz Szabo, on June 30, 2011.

01 July 2011

By Dr. Franz A.J. Szabo

The University of Alberta has appointed Joseph F. Patrouch, formerly of Florida International University, as Director of the Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European Studies following the retirement of its founding Director, Franz Szabo, on June 30, 2011. In keeping with its agreement with the Austrian government the university was committed to appointing a senior scholar of Austrian and Habsburg history to this position, and was successful in recruiting Patrouch, who has been studying the lands ruled by the Habsburg dynasty for close to thirty years.

A native of Ohio who spent a few years as a child living in Wisconsin, Patrouch was originally trained as a French and German specialist (he wrote his "distinction thesis" at Boston University under the direction of John G. Gagliardo on Richelieu's foreign policy toward the Holy Roman Empire in the early stages of the Thirty Years War), he moved to the Habsburgs under the influence of the charismatic specialist on this fascinating dynasty, William B. Slottman, shortly after he started graduate school at Berkeley. "Bill Slottman's giant lecture courses on Habsburg history were legendary," Patrouch noted. "Working as a grader for this undergraduate course, I was as enthralled as many other students with the multi-faceted story of these men and women and the heterogeneous group of lands and peoples which they ruled."

Patrouch admits that his own family roots probably had something to do with this shift in interest: "Two of my great-grandparents migrated from the lands of the Crown of St. Stephen to the United States in the early twentieth century. Family legend says that my great-grandfather Constantine, from a village near Bardejov in what is now eastern Slovakia, served in an honor guard for Emperor Franz Joseph at some event. In a familiar story, my family lost sight of its roots in the "Old Country" as they struggled to put food on the table and scrape a living from the mines of eastern Pennsylvania. It was left to a later generation to 'rediscover' the family's past."

After securing his MA in Habsburg history at Berkeley in 1985, Patrouch went on to secure a Ph.D. there in 1991 with a dissertation on the implementation of the Catholic Reformation in Upper Austria, a revised version of which was published by Brill Academic Press in 2000 under the title A Negotiated Settlement: The Counter-Reformation in Upper Austria under the Habsburgs. The research for this book was largely conducted in various Upper Austrian, German, and Viennese archives while Patrouch was a Fulbright student associated with the Johannes-Kepler-Universität in Linz. Living in Austria during the crucial years 1988-1989 exposed Patrouch to the exciting transformations which took place in Central Europe in those years. He participated in one of the first academic conferences organized at the University of South Bohemia after the end of travel restrictions and the experience influenced him to work to bring scholars and students from both sides of the one-time "Iron Curtain" together. For a number of years in the mid-nineties, for example, Patrouch co-directed a Summer study abroad program to Prague, Bratislava and at times Vienna.

The desire to encourage the exchange of ideas and experiences across national lines and divisions continues to mark his undertakings. This orientation was reinforced in the mid-nineties when he was invited to participate in the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft-sponsored working group on East Elbian seigneurial relations hosted by the Universität Potsdam. Patrouch has also worked as an invited guest researcher at the University of South Bohemia as well as at the Geisteswissenschaftliche Zentrum Geschichte und Kultur Ostmitteleuropas (GWZO) at the University of Leipzig and in 1999 was affiliated with the Vienna-based Institut für die Erforschung der frühen Neuzeit as a Fulbright Research Scholar. Reflecting his interest in concepts of space and urban studies, Patrouch served as a guest professor at the University of Vienna's Institut für Geographie und Regionalplanung in 2004 where he helped edit and translate the book Understanding Vienna: Pathways to the City (published by LIT Verlag in 2006). Following a decade's work on the contexts and life of the Habsburg archduchess Elizabeth (1554-1592) and research conducted while on sabbaticals in Frankfurt am Main (1998) and Princeton, New Jersey (2006) and as a guest researcher affiliated with the Friedrich-Meinecke Institute für Geschichte of the Freie Universität Berlin (2008-2009), Patrouch recently published a monograph titled Queen's Apprentice: Archduchess Elizabeth, Empress María, the Habsburgs, and the Holy Roman Empire, 1554-1569 (Brill Academic Press, 2010).

Patrouch has been heavily involved in the academic world of central European and Habsburg studies, composing over twenty journal articles and book chapters, over forty reviews and around forty-five articles in reference works on related subjects. These reference works include the Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Europe 1450-1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World, and Women in World History. He recently completed the entry for "Austria" in the Renaissance and Reformation volume of the new Oxford Bibliographies Online and is presently working on the entry for "Habsburgs." He has served as manuscript and project reviewer for a number of Austrian, British, and US publications and grant agencies and is currently an elected member of the executive committee of the Society for Austrian and Habsburg History and an editorial board member of both the Austrian History Yearbook and the H-Net discussion list HABSBURG. Patrouch has delivered conference papers and invited lectures in Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, the UK, and the US.

For Patrouch, community involvement and outreach is an important part of academic life. He has served on the board of directors of various community and local history groups, including the South Florida chapter of the Czechoslovak Society for Arts and Science (SVU), the Miami Beach Historical Association, the South Florida chapter of the Fulbright Association, and the Florida Conference of Historians (FCH). He served as president of both of the last two groups and edited the annual proceedings of the FCH for a number of years. He helped implement Florida International University's (FIU) new Doctoral Program in Atlantic Civilization as the program's graduate director, served as the university's European Studies director, and assisted in the conceptualization and implementation of the FIU graduate program in Public History. He intends to continue his interest in graduate training at the Wirth Institute and encourages potential graduate students from around the world to contact the institute concerning their research concentrations and ideas as they relate to Austria and Central Europe.

Patrouch's interest in Central Europe and the people who ruled there is related to an interest in using other analytical categories to understand the past. "Instead of the hackneyed nationalist perspectives so often employed by historians and social scientists, my focus has been on the local or the transnational" he points out. "The Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg Dynasty are two subjects which allow for a wider and different way of seeing the world in the centuries on which I usually focus, the early modern period. While my first book, on the Traunviertel of Upper Austria, concentrated on the politics of the local, examining parish conflicts and the local administration of authority, my second book used the subject of an Austrian archduchess as a means to examine the politics of the Habsburg Dynasty on a wider scale in the Holy Roman Empire and its neighboring kingdom of Hungary." As a result, Patrouch's research programme now increasingly concentrates on the imagined spaces and institutions of the Empire in the later sixteenth century.

Of course, Patrouch admits, "my research program will be less in the center of my attention as I turn to the responsibilities of leading the Wirth Institute." He looks forward to the challenge of leading an Institute with its broad multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary mandate to raise the profile of Central Europe in Canada and to be one of the leading research centres devoted to this part of Europe in the world. "I am excited to be able to follow in the footsteps of the Wirth Institute's founding director, Franz Szabo, and to take over the directorship of this dynamic operation," Patrouch said. "The role the institute plays in bringing people from Central Europe together, either as interns or visiting scholars at the various conferences the Wirth Institute sponsors each year, makes it an exciting place to be." As an editor of the H-Net's HABSBURG discussion list, he is also interested in increasing the utilization of digital and other technologies to bring the specialists in the field closer together.

As the hundred-year anniversary of the end of the Habsburg Empire in Central Europe nears, the study of the diverse cultures and histories of the lands it once connected continues fruitfully in the rich prairielands of central Alberta. The change of leadership at the Wirth Institute assures that this important asset for scholars of the region will continue to be directed by a historian committed to an interdisciplinary understanding of the past, present, and future of the region.