Negotiating the Right of Residence (Austria, Late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century). In: Beate Althammer (ed.): Citizenship, Migration and Social Rights – Historical Experiences from the Nineteenth to the Twentieth Century. London (Routledge) 2023, 33-53.
Abstract: In Habsburg and interwar Austria, the local right of residence (Heimatrecht, literally “home right” or “home law”) was fundamental for determining citizenship, poor relief, political participation and the administration of inhabitants. In the second half of the nineteenth century, this right was – in most cases – inherited and lifelong; it was passed on not only from father (or mother, in case of illegitimacy) to children, but also from husband to wife. With the acceleration of migration, an increasing number of people did not have the right of residence in their place of abode anymore. Only after a reform of 1896 (effective from 1901 on), they could claim it if they demonstrated a voluntary, uninterrupted stay of ten years as an adult without having become dependent on public charity. However, municipalities found manifold reasons to deny a right of residence. Applicants relied on official records and documents that were often incoherent, ambiguous or incomplete. Hence, many applications included statements and letters in which the applicants commented on documents, referred to witnesses and vindicated their belonging more or less successfully. This chapter illustrates how such negotiations were shaped by norms and administrative needs, by municipalities’ arbitrariness, but also by the applicants’ attitudes, resources and insistence.