Cover of The Plunder by Daniel Unowsky
The Plunder
The 1898 Anti-Jewish Riots in Habsburg Galicia
Daniel Unowsky


264 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804799829
Ebook ISBN: 9781503606104

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In the spring of 1898, thousands of peasants and townspeople in western Galicia rioted against their Jewish neighbors. Attacks took place in more than 400 communities in this northeastern province of the Habsburg Monarchy, in present-day Poland and Ukraine. Jewish-owned homes and businesses were ransacked and looted, and Jews were assaulted, threatened, and humiliated, though not killed. Emperor Franz Joseph signed off on a state of emergency in thirty-three counties and declared martial law in two. Over five thousand individuals—peasants, day-laborers, city council members, teachers, shopkeepers—were charged with myriad offenses.

Seeking to make sense of this violence and its aftermath, The Plunder examines the circulation of antisemitic ideas within Galicia against the political backdrop of the Habsburg state. Daniel Unowsky sees the 1898 anti-Jewish riots as evidence not of Galician backwardness and barbarity, but of a late nineteenth-century Europe reeling from economic, cultural, and political transformations wrought by mass politics, literacy, industrialization, capitalist agriculture, and government expansion. Through its nuanced analysis of the riots as a form of "exclusionary violence," this book offers new insights into the upsurge of the antisemitism that accompanied the emergence of mass politics in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century.

About the author

Daniel Unowsky is Professor of Central European History at the University of Memphis. He is the author of The Pomp and Politics of Patriotism: Imperial Celebrations in Habsburg Austria, 1848–1916 (2005).

"A monumental study of the normalization of low-level violence against Jews at the turn of the twentieth century, The Plunder unmasks how longstanding, quiet prejudice can erupt into violence, and shows that such tension, far from being a relic of a bygone era, is an integral part of modern European history. This is a timely, troubling, and compelling account of how the rule of law can be undermined by bigotry."

—Alison Frank Johnson, Harvard University

"The Plunder meticulously traces the causes, consequences, and significance of the 1898 attacks on Jewish communities across western Galicia, situating the riots within the broader context of ethnic exclusion across Europe and the Habsburg Monarchy's struggle to uphold the rule of law. By looking at how modern mass media and political organizations leveraged ethnic differences to encourage violent attacks, Daniel Unowsky provides crucial insights into later genocidal events in the Polish lands."

—Keely Stauter-Halsted, University of Illinois, Chicago

"Unowsky's taut, thematically organized history focuses on the causes, incidences, participants, and consequences of the wave of anti-Jewish riots which took place in Galicia, part of the northeastern Habsburg empire, in 1898....Recommended."

—A. Lieberman Colgan, CHOICE

"The deeply structured analysis of the 1898 [anti-Semitic riots] and their embedding into Habsburg politics, including the given reasons why they were mostly absent in eastern Galicia, assures this book a place among the standard literature on antisemitism in east central Europe."

—Frank Golczewski, Slavic Review

"This is a concise text, but one that is well organized and tries to show the violence of 1898 in the larger context of Hapsburg history[It] fills an unfortunate gap in our understanding."

—Laura A. Detre, Journal of Austrian Studies

"Daniel Unowsky's well-written and thoroughly researched study provides a sophisticated account of why the [Galicia] riots occurred, what actually happened, public and official reaction, and the events' long-term impact."

—Jeffrey Kopstein, Holocaust and Genocide Studies

"Unowsky's meticulously researched work makes a vital contribution to extant scholarship on the relationship of antisemitism to modern social, economic, and political transformations, as well as to the particular context of fin-de-siècle Austria. It should be read by anyone interested in modern antisemitism and antisemitic violence, twentieth-century East Central European Jewry, as well as those interested in modern Habsburg history more generally."

—Joshua Shanes, Journal of Jewish Identities

"[A] carefully researched, well-organized, and clearly written analysis....Daniel Unowsky's book makes a significant contribution to the study of relations between Jews and non-Jews in East-Central Europe; to our understanding of society and politics in turn-of-the-century Habsburg Galicia; and, most importantly, to a series of open questions regarding how, when, and perhaps even why intergroup relations pass from the multilayered web of daily interactions and periodic moments of tension to waves of physical violence."

—Scott Ury, American Historical Review