• E-mailstephan.sander-faes@uib.no
  • Phone+47 55 58 31 31
  • Visitor Address
    Øysteins gate 3
    5007 Bergen
  • Postal Address
    Postboks 7805
    5020 Bergen

I am a historian of post-mediaeval, pre-industrial Central and Eastern Europe. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Graz in 2011 and obtained the Habilitation in Early Modern and Modern History from the University of Zurich in 2018. Before joining UiB in 2020, I have taught for ten years at the history departments at the Universities of Zurich and Fribourg, as well as held the István Deák Visiting Professorship in East Central European Studies at Columbia University in 2018.

My research focuses on urban-rural relations, administrative, bureaucratic, and constitutional changes ("ABC history"), and state transformation, by which is meant the emergence, and change over time, of the European national state. I am the author of two books: Urban Elites of Zadar (2013); and Europas Habsburgisches Jahrhundert (2018). My next book, which is a revised and translated version of my Habilitationsschrift, is entitled Lordship and State Transformation: Bohemia and the Habsburg Fiscal-Financial-Military Regime, is currently under review with McGill-Queen's University Press.

Currently, I am investigating the diffusion of state authority into the rural periphery of Habsburg Lower Austria from the late eighteenth century to the advent of constitutional rule in 1860s. This work forms part of my investigation into the role of non-state actors as state-builders, the patterns of patterns of transition, and the social factors influencing them. In this endeavour, I am partnering with Taylor & Francis for my next book, Crime, Enlightenment, and Punishment: Bureaucratic and Scientific Change in Habsburg Austria, 1750s-1820s.

Please see the attached CV for further particulars, and do not hesitate to get in touch about academic service, teaching, or speaking activities.

  • Coordinator of the late medieval and early modern M.A. seminar (from autumn 2021).
  • My teaching's geographic focus rests on Central and Eastern Europe
  • I am happy to supervise and mentor graduate students working on my research interests.

Focus, Themes, and Approaches

  • Period: Renaissance, Early Modern and Modern European History
  • Areas: Central and Eastern Europe; Republic of Venice, Habsburg Monarchy
  • Themes: Fiscal-Financial Institutions, State Formation, Political Economy, Economic and Social History, Administrative History from Seigneurial Domination to the Modern 'Institutional State' (Max Weber), 'Little Divergence', Urban History, Rural History, Crime History, History of Everyday Life
  • Approaches: Quantitative History, Transnational/Transimperial History, Entangled History/histoire croisée, Communication and Media Studies, Cultural History, Microhistory

Growing out of my Ph.D. (2011), my first research interest concerns the intersections of Venetian Studies and South-East European History in the Renaissance Adriatic. As is customary in German-language academia, I then moved to a different topic, area, and period for my second qualification thesis, the Habilitation (2018); hence, my second research theme focuses on what I conceive of ‘state transformation’ in the Habsburg Monarchy, exemplarily focused on Bohemia from the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) to Charles VI (r. 1710-40). Uniting both fields, I began to develop interests in Crime History and Urban History. While revising my German-language Habilitation for publication in English, I moved on to my current research project, the study of state-building from the Enlightenment to the advent of the institutional state, exemplarily focused on Lower Austria ‘around 1800’.

Total Number of Publications (as of Feb. 2024)

18 refereed articles and book chapters (1 co-authored); 2 published monographs, 1 in press, and 1 contracted; 2 (co)edited volumes; 14 non-refereed articles and book chapters (2 co-authored); 35 book reviews; 2 dissertations; and 9 ‘other’ publications.


Crime, Enlightenment, and Punishment: Bureaucratic and Scientific Change in Habsburg Austria, 1750s-1820s (London: Taylor & Francis [contracted]).

Lordship and State Transformation: Bohemia and the Habsburg Fiscal-Financial-Military Regime, 1650-1710 (Toronto: McGill-Queen’s University Press [forthcoming]).

Europas habsburgisches Jahrhundert, 1450-1550 [Europe’s Habsburg Century] (Darmstadt: wbg Academic, 2018), 160 p., ISBN 978-3-534-27058-3.

Urban Elites of Zadar: Dalmatia and the Venetian Commonwealth, 1540-1569 (Rome: Viella, 2013), 292 p., ISBN 978-8-867-28115-2.

Refereed Journal Articles and Book Chapters (selection)

‘State Transformation between Centre and Periphery: Non-State Actors and Everyday Administration in Lower Austria, 1790-1848’, in C. Armenteros, H. Hein-Kircher, and F.F. Sterkenburgh (eds.), Modernizing the Unmodern: Europe’s Imperial Monarchies and Their Path to Modernity in the 19th and 20th Centuries (London: Palgrave MacMillan, in press).

Co-author, with Mikołaj Malinowski, ‘Labour and Forced Labour in Early Modern History (ca. 1500-1800)’, in J. Hansen et al. (eds.), The European Experience: A Multi-Perspective History of Modern Europe (Cambridge: OpenBook, 2022), 661-70.

‘Herrschaft, Steuern und Bürokratie nach dem Weißen Berg: Die Eggenberger Herrschaften und der Habsburgisch-Ständische Verwaltungsapparat (c. 1650-1720) [Domination, Taxation, and Bureaucracy after White Mountain: The Eggenberg Domains and the Habsburg-Territorial Administrative State]’, Český časopis historický | The Czech Historical Review, 120, no. 3-4 (2022), 607-52.

For a full list of publications, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

Academic article
  • Show author(s) (2022). Herrschaft, Steuern und Bürokratie nach dem Weißen Berg: Die Eggenberger Herrschaften und der Habsburgisch-Ständische Verwaltungsapparat (c. 1650-1720). Český časopis historický. 607-661.
  • Show author(s) (2021). Habsburg Studies under Siege: Notes on Recent Early Modern Scholarship. Seventeenth century. 169-175.
  • Show author(s) (2019). Staats-Desintegration in Praxis: Krieg, Kredit und Steuern in Böhmen unter Joseph I. Český časopis historický. 36-58.
  • Show author(s) (2018). “ohngeacht alles gebrauchten Ernsts und arrests”: Diebstahlsprozesse im ländlichen Südböhmen um 1700. Frühneuzeit-Info. 135-148.
  • Show author(s) (2018). Composite Domination and State Formation, 1650-1700: Manorialism and the Fiscal-Financial-Military Constitution in Habsburg Bohemia. Opera Historica. 151-190.
  • Show author(s) (2017). Lordship and State Formation: Bohemia and the Habsburg Monarchy from the Thirty Years’ War to Charles VI. Opera Historica. 82-99.
  • Show author(s) (2014). Between Families and Institutions: Zadar’s Notaries as Intermediaries Between Church and Society in the mid-Sixteenth Century Adriatic. Südost-Forschungen: Internationale Zeitschrift für Geschichte, Kultur und Landeskunde Südosteuropas. 172-190.
  • Show author(s) (2023). Dead Ideas Walking Agrarian Dualism and the ‘Little Divergence’ Revisited .
Academic lecture
  • Show author(s) (2023). The Bohemian Homefront during ‘Austria’s Wars of Emergence’, 1680s-1710s.
  • Show author(s) (2022). Peoples of the Renaissance Adriatic: An Online Directory of 16th-Century Venetian Dalmatia (in the Making) .
  • Show author(s) (2021). “200 Years in the Making (ii): Finding One’s Niche and Making the Most of It".
  • Show author(s) (2021). Metamorphosen: Herrschaft, Steuern und Verwaltung im nachweißenbergischen Böhmen.
  • Show author(s) (2021). Elective Affinities: Venice, Vienna, and the Ottomans in Early Modern European History.
  • Show author(s) (2021). 200 Years in the Making (i): Lineages of the Modern State.
Academic chapter/article/Conference paper
  • Show author(s) (2015). Merchants of the Adriatic: Zadar’s Trading Community Around the mid-Sixteenth Century. 0 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2022). Labour and Forced Labour in Early Modern History (ca. 1500–1800). 661-670. In:
    • Show author(s) (2022). The European Experience: A Multi-Perspective History of Modern Europe, 1500–2000. Open Book Publishers.

More information in national current research information system (CRIStin)

State Transformation in the Austrian Empire

Despite the copious amounts of research devoted to European state-making, there remains a major lacuna: the crucial contribution of non-state actors to the transformation of pre-modern social formations into modern states and societies, especially east of the Rhine, have not been studied yet. This project will close this gap by delivering a novel account of state-crafting as a co-production of state and non-state actors from around 1780 to 1870. Historically, this period witnessed the drastic, if non-linear, expansion of state authority into areas and contexts where it previously did not exist. Hybridity and multi-variate systems of order co-existed and whose repercussions continue to manifest themselves to this day.

Historians conventionally study the transformation of state power along three trajectories: (i) domestically, as the transition from direct and personal rule to increasingly representative and abstract governance; (ii) as an era of drastic change of intra-state relations due to the reduction of sovereign states; and (iii) through the creation of international organisations, such as the Red Cross (1861) or the Telegraph Union (1865). A reified ‘state’ is presumed the principal mover in all three contexts, by way of absorbing existing structures and territories, as well as ‘outsourcing’ state authority to a different level. Yet, there is considerable historical evidence and a large body of present-day experiences showing that these changes occurred through close cooperation between state and non-state actors, like, e.g., merchants, bankers, industrialists, or patrimonial staff. This is immediately apparent in the context of international organisations that came about by private initiative (e.g., Henri Dunant’s founding of the Red Cross) or were established, in today’s terms, as ‘public-private partnerships’ from the outset.

Until the breakthrough of the ‘institutional state’ in the final quarter of the 19th century, ‘Europe’ consisted of a wide variety of entities and polities that —like Renaissance Italy or the premodern Holy Roman Empire—contained seemingly endless numbers of (semi)autonomous non-state actors, including merchants, bankers, and guilds. Until the abolition of feudal privileges between 1789/90 and 1848/49, one must also account for the continued existence of traditional patrimonial authority with its many different characteristics, ranging from production (demesne lordship) to social status (subjection), and from the administration of justice to staggered seigneurial rights of patronage. In short: there existed all sorts of governmental functions that are indicative of the absence of a consistent salience within one or the other state; to the contrary, ambiguities, hybrid forms of authority, and variations abounded, and they did so on all levels of power and were widely diffused across time and space.

Emphasis on these complex and contradictory dynamics of implementing centralised authority will free scholarship from prevailing, if anachronistic, projections of intentionality and presumed teleology. Instead, STATECRAFTING will connect the study of institutional development with its political, social, and economic dimensions, thereby revealing the extent to which state-building involved reciprocal, if asymmetrical, exchange between ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’ within a polity as well as across Europe. Fleshing out the role of state and non-state actors will be the study’s key contribution. In sum, this project will lead to a comprehensive reassessment of the growing reach, scale, and capabilities of the institutional state during The Great Transformation (Karl Polanyi). The study of how these changes were implemented by the state’s collaborators, the non-state actors, has never been told.