List of former Austrian colonies

From the 17th century through to the 19th century, the Austrian Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire attempted to profit from colonial trade and to establish their own colonies. Due to pressures by the other colonial powers and a government that could ill afford it, all attempts eventually failed.

Ostend Company

Main article: Ostend Company

Ostend Company was a merchants' company made to trade with the Indies, chartered by 1722 in the Austrian Netherlands. International political pressures had ended its extraordinary growth and in 1727 the charter was suspended, leading to the company being dissolved within a few years.

Nicobar islands

Main article: Austrian colonisation of Nicobar Islands

Colonisation of the Nicobar Islands was a short-lived and unsuccessful attempt on the island chain in the eastern Indian Ocean colony of the Austrian Empire. The colony was established in 1778. This had previously been a Danish colony, and Austria established it as Denmark had abandoned its colony on the islands, although not its claim. However by 1783, due to a lack of support, the last colonists left.


During the Boxer rebellion and its aftermath 1899-1901, Austria-Hungary participated in the Eight-Nation Alliance and helped in suppressing the rising. However, Austria sent by far the smallest force of any of the combatant nation. Only one warship and a force of only 75 marines were despatched.

Even so, on 7 September 1901, Austria gained a concession zone in Tianjin as part of the reward for its contribution to the Allies. The Austrian concession zone was 150 acres (0.61 km2) in area, slightly larger than the Italian, but smaller than the Belgian zone. The self-contained concession had its own prison, school, barracks and hospital. It also contained the Austro-Hungarian consulate and its citizens were under Austrian, not Chinese, rule. If they committed a crime on Chinese soil, they could be tried in their own courts.

Though it was provided with a small garrison, Austria proved unable, due to World War I, to maintain control of its concession. The concession zone was swiftly occupied by China at the Chinese declaration of war on the Central Powers and on 14 August 1917 the lease was terminated, (along with that of the larger German concession in the same city). Austria finally abandoned all claim to it on 10 September 1919. Hungary made a similar recognition in 1920.

However, despite its relatively short life-span (only 16 years in all), the Austrians have left their mark on that area of the city, as can be seen in the wealth of Austrian architecture that stands in the city to this day.

List of consuls

  • Carl Bernauer-1901-1908
  • Erwin Ritter von Zach-1908
  • Miloslav Kobr-1908-1912
  • Hugo Schumpeter-1913-1917
  • Addi Knight 1917-1918

Other activities

Due to the lack of support by the government, Austria-Hungary didn't attempt to obtain any later colonies. Individual actions and expeditions didn't change this state of affairs.

In 1873, an Austrian expedition was sent to the north pole and managed to discover and name Franz Josef Land. This was never a formal colony; however, no other country put forward a claim until the Soviet Union annexed the islands in 1926.

A trader based in Hong-Kong sold his rights to North Borneo, (modern Sabah), to the Consul of the Austria-Hungary in Hong Kong, Baron von Overbeck. He managed to get a 10-year renewal of the lease from the Temenggong of Brunei, and a similar treaty from the Sultan of Sulu on January 22, 1878. To finance his plans for North Borneo, von Overbeck found financial backing from the Dent brothers (Alfred and Edward). However, he was unable to get any interest from his government in the territory. After efforts to sell the territory to Italy for use as a penal colony, Von Overbeck withdrew in 1880, leaving Alfred Dent in control.

However in 1885, despite the fact that Austria-Hungary was not a colonial power, it was invited to the Berlin conference to regulate colonial policy among the powers of Europe. Despite lack of overseas expansion, Austria-Hungary was still viewed as a major European power.

See also

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