The Smart People of Vienna

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12149

Fertile soil produces good crops. There must've been some fertile social soil in Vienna because it produced a bumper crop of musical, intellectual, and artistic giants. How do we explain this history?


World, World Cultures

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Can you think of a place in the world that has more than its fair share of “creative types,” like artists, writers, and scientists? Why do some places seem to have such rich culture?

Nowadays, many people would say that a city like New York, or Los Angeles, or maybe London, is “the place to be” — a city where the thinkers and creators of the era seem to gather and make life all that much more exciting.

Cultural capitals shift with time because of economic changes, the rise and fall of fashions and fads, conflict, and even climate change. Though it is now suffering from years of conflict, the city of Baghdad was one of the cultural capitals of the world one thousand years ago!

If you were living at the turn of the past century, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and you were looking for “the place to be,” you could have done no better than the city of Vienna, Austria. The modern nation of Austria (not Australia, mind you — that’s a totally different continent!) was formed from the remnants of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the years of the Austrian Empire, and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the city of Vienna was host to some of the greatest minds of the era in fields like music, art, architecture, and science. If you delve into the history of the city, you will find it was home to dozens of the most important cultural figures of modern history.

  • How could one place become so culturally rich?

Read more about the history of this great city. As you read, write down information and ideas that answer the following questions:

  • What were the origins of the city?
  • What are three or four of the sites and symbols associated with Vienna and Austria’s historical power?
  • What are three or four of the most important sites relating to Viennese cultural heritage?

Now, read the article, History of Vienna, courtesy of Virtual Vienna. Record your answers to the questions above, then share your answers with your parent or teacher. Reflect on the following questions and discuss together:

  • What did you find most impressive about Viennese history? Why?
  • What aspects of Viennese history possibly helped make it a cultural powerhouse?
  • What do you think might have been the impact of the two World Wars on the prominence of Vienna?

Many nations and their cities see a cycle of rising and falling through the years and centuries. The city of Vienna reached a great peak, only to be diminished by the tragic wars of the early twentieth century. Vienna remains one of the great cities of the world, though, with a heritage of cultural innovation.

In the Got It? section, learn more about some of the great figures who embody that heritage.

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