Outbreak of the war
End of the war

Masses of people – the development of the population

At the start of the twentieth century, the importance of a state was measured above all in terms of its population. According to the 1910 census, the Dual Monarchy had 51.4 million inhabitants.

The population was distributed very unevenly between the two halves of the empire, however. The western half, known as Cisleithania, had 28.6 million inhabitants in 1910, representing 55.6 per cent of the entire population. The Hungarian half of the empire, called Transleithania, was smaller, with 20.9 million inhabitants or 40.6 per cent of the population. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was administered jointly by both halves as a condominium, had 1.9 million people (3.8 per cent).

The population of the Habsburg empire had risen rapidly in the previous decades. Between 1860 and 1900 it increased by 7 million to 26.2 million in Cisleithania, and by 5 million to 19.3 million in Hungary. In the decade from 1900 to 1910 it also rose by just under 12 per cent in both halves of the empire. The strong growth in population was a consequence of industrialization and increased production in agriculture and progress in general.

The urban population grew particularly rapidly as a result of migration to the cities of Vienna and Budapest and also to booming regional centres like Prague, Lemberg [Lviv] and Trieste.

Vienna had a population of just over 2 million in 1910 and was one of the largest cities on the continent. Other major cities in Europe included Paris with 2.8 million, Berlin with 2.1 million, St Petersburg with 1.9 million and Moscow with 1.6 million. By far the largest city in Europe was London with 7 million inhabitants.

The other main cities in the Habsburg empire were the Hungarian capital Budapest, which following a period of extreme growth had 880,000 inhabitants, followed by Trieste with 230,000 and Prague with 224,000. The figure in the case of Prague referred only to the city itself. In the metropolitan area as a whole – including the circle of administratively independent communities and suburbs surrounding the historical city – there were over 500,000 people. The fifth-largest city in Austria-Hungary was Lemberg [Lviv] with 206,000 inhabitants.

Overpopulation in the structurally disadvantaged regions at the periphery prompted many people to emigrate. Between 1891 and 1920, one fifth of all immigrants to the USA were from the Habsburg Monarchy.

Translation: Nick Somers


Hanisch, Ernst: Der lange Schatten des Staates. Österreichische Gesellschaftsgeschichte im 20. Jahrhundert [Österreichische Geschichte 1890–1990, hrsg. von Herwig Wolfram], Wien 2005

Rumpler, Helmut: Die Gesellschaft der Habsburgermonarchie aus der Perspektive der Bevölkerungs-, Siedlungs-, Erwerbs-, Bildungs- und Verkehrsstatistik 1910, in: Rumpler, Helmut/Seger, Martin (Hrsg): Die Habsburgermonarchie 1848–1918, Band IX/2: Soziale Strukturen, Wien 2010, 9–26

Seger, Martin: Räumliche Disparitäten sozioökonomischer Strukturen in der Spätphase der Habsburgermonarchie. Die Gleichzeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen, in: Rumpler, Helmut/Seger, Martin (Hrsg): Die Habsburgermonarchie 1848–1918, Band IX/2: Soziale Strukturen, Wien 2010, 27–44

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    The Habsburg empire

    Austria-Hungary had an extremely diverse state structure. At the start of the First World War it was a major power in decline. Social and political problems and the dominant nationality conflicts shook the empire to its foundations. At the same time, the Monarchy represented an enormous cultural region in which the Habsburg empire flourished in spite of the political stagnation.