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Publisher's Summary

In a panoramic and pioneering reappraisal, Pieter M. Judson shows why the Habsburg Empire mattered so much, for so long, to millions of Central Europeans.
Rejecting fragmented histories of nations in the making, this bold revision surveys the shared institutions that bridged difference and distance to bring stability and meaning to the far-flung empire. By supporting new schools, law courts, and railroads along with scientific and artistic advances, the Habsburg monarchs sought to anchor their authority in the cultures and economies of Central Europe. A rising standard of living throughout the empire deepened the legitimacy of Habsburg rule, as citizens learned to use the empire's administrative machinery to their local advantage. Nationalists developed distinctive ideas about cultural difference in the context of imperial institutions, yet all of them claimed the Habsburg state as their empire.
The empire's creative solutions to governing its many lands and peoples - as well as the intractable problems it could not solve - left an enduring imprint on its successor states in Central Europe. Its lessons remain no less important today.
©2016 The President and Fellows of Harvard College (P)2017 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"[A] subtly argued work of deep scholarship.... A nuanced scholarly reappraisal of a significant European empire." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Uther on 02-11-17

Ideal for students of empires, nationalism, minorities and ethnic groups

This book is an academic book, written in academic language. Terms in vogue with professional historians such as 'agency' appear frequently. It may be somewhat dense for some who are seeking a general overview of the Habsburg Empire, but it is an excellent and thought provoking book for those who are studying or researching in this or related fields. I highly recommend it, especially for those interested in imperialism and nationalism in other parts of the world.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful


By Acteon on 04-16-17

Important insights and new perspectives

What made the experience of listening to The Habsburg Empire the most enjoyable?

It constantly presents details that add up to a new understanding of the Habsburg Empire. And of history and historiography.

What does Michael Page bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Well read. Though he does not speak German like a native (no reason he should), he pronounces names and other words in a comprehensible and non-distorting way, something I highly appreciate.

Any additional comments?

I was most struck by the negative side of nationalism and 'self-determination'. In the case of the Austro-Hungarian empire, many individuals were better off under the rule of a universal distant bureaucracy than of smaller, ethnically biased governments. Self-determination meant that those who formed minorities became subjected to more constraints than under the Hapsburg and their more tolerant policies; whereas individuals could choose what language school they attended, suddenly the choice was made for them by the government which had a nationalistic agenda.<br/><br/>We are used to thinking of the Austro-Hungarian empire as backwards, repressive, and mired in bureaucratic apathy (think Metternich, Kafka, Musil...), but the picture that emerges from the pages of this book is quite different, far more nuanced and often going against common conception. <br/><br/>I found the plethora of details fascinating; the French adage "the good lord is in the detail" has never been more true than here. <br/><br/>To me, the book is a godsend, as it opened up new perspectives on any number of topics. And it makes me wonder what similar books on other times and places might do to change the ideas I have of these! A wonderful book that must not be missed, for anyone interested in European history and/or in history in general.

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4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Mr. M. J. Bright on 06-21-17

Important counter to today's nationalisms

Judson's book is a fascinating attempt to dispel a persistent narrative, bolstered by nationalist and Cold War historians, of the Empire as a silly anachronism that somehow suppressed the 'natural' development of the ethnic groups within it. Obviously, there are some resonance in Europe today and Judson is clearly making a case for supra-national organisations in general as enablers of a benign and controlled expression of ethnic identity in contrast to its rather nastier post-Empire iterations (he tips his hand a bit in the closing chapter)

Like all serious history books, it becomes a bit bogged down in its audio version when getting in to some of the details, but attention is amply rewarded.

The reading is crisp and engaging throughout, although the decision to rather pedantically ensure every town and city was listed under its names in different languages was occasionally a bit wearisome.

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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