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The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618-1815

by Charles W. Ingrao

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712280,915 (3.72)1
This is a revised and updated edition of a highly acclaimed history of the early modern Habsburg monarchy. Charles W. Ingrao challenges the conventional notion of Habsburg state and society as peculiarly backward by tracing its emergence as a military and cultural power of enormous influence. The Habsburg monarchy was undeniably different from other European polities: geography and linguistic diversity made this inevitable, but by 1789 it had laid the groundwork for a single polity capable of transcending its uniquely diverse cultural and historic heritage. Charles W. Ingrao unravels the web of social, political, economic and cultural factors that shaped the Habsburg monarchy during the period, and presents this complex story in a manner that is both authoritative and accessible to non-specialists. This edition includes a revised text and bibliographies, new genealogical tables, and an epilogue which looks forward to the impact of the Habsburg monarchy on twentieth-century events.… (more)

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The Habsburgs are one of the great ruling dynasties in history. From their medieval origins in Austria the family would eventually occupy thrones that dominated much of central and eastern Europe before a series of setbacks and political shifts brought about the end of their monarchy in 1918. Yet as Charles Ingrao argues, far too much attention is focused on the final century of the monarchy’s existence, which has the effect of distorting our understanding of it and how it survived for so long. His book, which is a survey of the monarchy from the start of the Thirty Years’ War to the end of the Napoleonic Wars, examines the factors which he sees as shaping the “distinctive course of Austrian history,” factors which he argues continued to define the development of the monarchy for the duration of its existence.

As Ingrao notes, the Habsburgs faced formidable challenges in governing their vast and diverse territories, which left them vulnerable to both local resistance and external threats. Yet he shows how the Habsburgs pragmatically turned these challenges into strengths, building an enduring empire that survived and even thrived during the early modern period. One of the foremost of these was its geographical position, which left it vulnerable to attack yet also valuable as an ally. Such alliances were the product of deft diplomacy, something the Habsburgs had to learn to master not only in dealing with the other powers of Europe but with the numerous minorities that made up their subjects. This diversity forced successive emperors to pursue consensus rather than confrontation with local elites, which left the monarchy weaker as an institution than many of its contemporaries in Europe but also served as a form of restraint in its international policy, as the monarchy was forced to avoid wars of aggression for which they would be unable to mobilize the necessary support. Their policies may not have made for the grandest of European states, but they helped the monarchy endure long after many of its contemporaries exhausted themselves through inconclusive wars.

Such an approach can run counter to preconceived notions about the Habsburg monarchy, yet Ingrao’s arguments are convincing. Through them, the Habsburg empire’s status as a great power and its survival over so many centuries become comprehensible to readers, helping them to understand not just its endurance but its long-overshadowed vitality as well. Well-written and thought-provoking, this book is an excellent introduction for anyone seeking to understand the history of the Habsburg empire and how such a seemingly unworkable state ruled so much of Europe for as long as it did. ( )
  MacDad | Mar 27, 2020 |
Excellent "inside-out" work on the Habsburg Monarchy in the Early Modern Period, stretching from the Thirty Years' War to the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. ( )
  fdhondt | Feb 21, 2012 |
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This is a revised and updated edition of a highly acclaimed history of the early modern Habsburg monarchy. Charles W. Ingrao challenges the conventional notion of Habsburg state and society as peculiarly backward by tracing its emergence as a military and cultural power of enormous influence. The Habsburg monarchy was undeniably different from other European polities: geography and linguistic diversity made this inevitable, but by 1789 it had laid the groundwork for a single polity capable of transcending its uniquely diverse cultural and historic heritage. Charles W. Ingrao unravels the web of social, political, economic and cultural factors that shaped the Habsburg monarchy during the period, and presents this complex story in a manner that is both authoritative and accessible to non-specialists. This edition includes a revised text and bibliographies, new genealogical tables, and an epilogue which looks forward to the impact of the Habsburg monarchy on twentieth-century events.

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