Finding Franz Josef (or is it Joseph)

I have long been fascinated by the events of the Russian revolutions of 1917 in February and October of that year, but over the years I’ve come to realise that that the collapse of the Austro Hungrian Empire at the end of the first world war created a power vacuum in central Europe that helped events play out as they did.

Remember that in 1916 Russia had pushed back the Austro Hungarian army and throughout 1917 managed to hold the line until the army disintegrated, and by that time the Austro Hungarian forces were no longer capable of taking advantage of the chaos.

Their own army was disintegrating and it was increasingly clear that the 1867 compromise between Austria and Hungary was on borrowed time.

At the same time Kaiser Franz Josef had died on 21 November 1916 at the grand old age of 86, and had for many, been the only Kaiser they had known.

Franz Josef was Austria Hungary.

So, if I was to do some research on the period as a wet weather topic over winter the death of Franz Josef seemed as good a point to start as anywhere.

Except there was a little problem. Franz Josef was also known as Franz Joseph in English.

I first of all thought it might be possible to get away with a search for ‘Franz’ but a trial searching for ‘Franz’ in Welsh Newspapers Online for 1916 rapidly showed that there were just too many  people called ‘Franz’ in the news.

So, I turned to QueryPic to check usage in both Australia and New Zealand:

franz josef australia

and we can see that while ‘Franz Joseph’ had been more popular as a usage in the nineteenth century, by the time of World War I both usages were equally popular.

The peak for ‘Franz Josef’ around 1900 is due to Fridtjof Nansen’s landing on Franz Josef land during the Fram expedition.

franz josef nz

In New Zealand, the situation is slightly more complicated due to the Franz Josef glacier on the South Island, with later post 1920 usage favouring ‘Franz Josef’.

So any search needs to be something like

Franz AND (Josef OR Joseph)

and even when, as a test, I ran the searches for real for news of his death or funeral even the same newspaper would refer to him as Franz Joseph one day and Franz Josef the next.

However, there does look to be an explanation of sorts. Austria was at war with France and Britain (and by extension Canada, Australia and New Zealand) which meant that the only English speaking correspondents in Vienna were American and of course were subject to censorship by the Austrian authorities.

News was restricted – its not for nothing that Ernesta Bullitt’s diary of her travels in Germany and Austria in the summer of 1916 was entitled An Uncensored Diary from the Central Empires.

And in an attempt to avoid censorship it looks as if the major source of news about what was going on in Austria Hungary in Welsh, Australian and New Zealand newspapers was syndicated reports from news agencies in Zurich and Amsterdam (both Switzerland and the Netherlands were neutral during world war one), and quite a few of these reports preferred Josef rather than Joseph.

Only when the reports were rewritten or compiled into a longer news article was Josef replaced with Joseph, and then not always or even consistently…




About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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