The Habsburgs: To Rule the World

Basic. Aug. 2020. 416p. ISBN 9781541644502. $32. HIST
The Habsburgs have suffered at the hands of historians for their treatment of subject populations and because the way they ruled their lands didn’t conform to modern notions of state-building. Yet, the dynasty endured for a millennium and was a dominating force in the West for four centuries. Beginning with the Middle Ages and continuing through until the assassination of Habsburg heir presumptive Franz Ferdinand in 1914, this narrative by Rady (Central European History, Univ. Coll. London; The Habsburg Empire) traces the dynasty's failures and successes throughout Central Europe. Rady clarifies what the Habsburgs accomplished, as opposed to what they never intended to do; activities that may seem as diversions from state building were an example of a patrimonial yet universalist, deeply Christian view of empire. The author is also astute in explicating the imperial symbolism behind movements like the Baroque, and no one explains the inner dynamics of the Habsburgs better than Rady.
VERDICT This admirably compact, exceptionally well-written survey will probably be the standard one-volume history of the Habsburg dynasty for years to come.

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