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Habsburgs Embodying Empire [Paperback]

Andrew Wheatcroft
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 1 1996
For more than six centuries, the strange and defiant Habsburg family ruled a polyglot empire sprawling from Audstria to the Adriatic Sea, from North Africa to Mexico. Researcher Andrew Wheatcroft shows how the dynasty's mystical vision and unsurpassed political acumen culminated in the culture that produced 20th-century giants such as Freud and Hitler. 16 pages of photographs.

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Product Description

About the Author

Andrew Wheatcroft has written and lectured widely on European and Middle Eastern history. His books include The Ottomans and The Hapsburgs.

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On a day of stifling heat late in June 1386 the little town of Brugg was thronged to capacity with armed men. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and well documented March 23 2002
By Martul
Format:Paperback
Dr. Wheatcroft, a multilingual specialist in european and ottoman medieval history, has finally published one of his most elaborated works. The Habsbursg is the result of over 30 years of research, visiting different places and reading most of the previous publications on this field. The novelty of this work lies on its explanation of Continental Europe's history through the history of a family. This book might be boring for somebody who doesn't understand that the history of a country is the history of their people, and in the middle age the most influential people in Europe were the Habsburgs. This unique family had, during 1.000 years, a very characteristic fashion of behaving, because an individual able to track his / her origins for 40 straight generations till the deepest roots of Europe has a very special perspective of history and his / her role in it. Dr. Otto von Habsburg, European Deputy and living heir of this imperial dynasty, has worked all his live in order to re-discover the concept of Europe, the same ideal tracked by his familiy by means of the Holy Roman Empire. In conclusion, for everybody interested in discovering what is behind the ideal of Europe (and its symbols, like the EU's flag), this book will be extraordinarily interesting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars AEIOU and All That Oct. 11 2001
Format:Paperback
Since the Habsburgs ruled much of Europe for over 700 years, writing their history is a risky business indeed. Happily, Wheatcroft avoids the trap of getting bogged down in a plethora of dates and deaths. His solution - and the reader soon realizes the briliance of his design - is instead to focus on what it meant to be a Habsburg, and on the metaphysical identity they assumed. The Habsburgs projected themselves as possessing a special mission from God above to preserve the Catholic faith and to maintain the common weal through a perpetual, hereditary monarchy. Their various inventions - the Order of the Golden Fleece, the motto "AEIOU," their patented system of interlocking dynastic marriages - were all part of this corporate strategy. The sense of quest sustained the family throughout the Holy Roman Empire and guided leaders such as Maximilian, Phillip of Spain, Maria Theresa, and Franz-Joseph. This book is also a terrific meditation on collective memory: while most of Gemany had forgotten that a Hapsburg had once been Emperor (Rudolf 1271-1291), NO-ONE in the Habsburg dynasty lost sight of the prize. Such was the family's preparedness that upon the re-election of one of its members (Albert, 1438-51), the Habsburgs held the Imperial throne until 1918. The Kennedys, the Bushes and even the Windsors are a mere blip by comparison.
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Format:Paperback
This book is not a history of Austria-as the title indicates, it is a history of the Habsburgs, the hereditary rulers of Austria. As I mentioned in my review of Brook-Shepherd's book, "The Austrians" (a book that is complementary to this one, with relatively little overlap), there really isn't a great deal of material available in English on Austrian history-at least not on events taking place before the latter half of the 19th century.
From the traditional historical point of view-that in which history is the chronology recounting of war and changes in power-nothing of significance really happened in Austria that wasn't somehow associated with the Habsburgs. Whether or not this is the case is the subject of a different book-the subject of this one is the Habsburg family itself. Although their presence lasted longer in Austria than anywhere else, this powerful family also ruled the Netherlands, and Spain, and often provided the figurehead for the Holy Roman Empire.
Probably to an extent greater than any other royal house, the Habsburgs had their greatest successes not on the battlefield, but in the bedroom. They married their way to what at one point was the largest empire in the world, encompassing not only the majority of the German-speaking lands, but also the Lowlands, the Iberian peninsula, and the Spanish territories in North and South America, and Asia. Quite a feat for a dynasty that had been chased out of their hereditary home and namesake 300 years earlier by pitchfork-wielding Swiss peasants. The Habsburg story is more concerned with the issues of power than it is with warfare, which often went quite badly for them.
Given a unique and interesting subject, the author takes a somewhat non-traditional approach.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Something of a missed opportunity March 7 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Towards the end of the book, the author states that he has consciously chosen to focus on symbolism rather than on the more usual subjects of Hapsburg history. Fair enough, and the book indeed offers some insights into how the Hapsburgs saw themselves as reflected by the way they are portrayed in the paintings and books discused. However, the casual reader who is more interested in the more conventional aspects of history should be warned: you are not going to learn much about the events of the times, the individual personalities of many of the Hapsburgs or get much of a feel for whether particular rulers were good or evil, wise or demented, successful or failures. [And the blurb on the jacket is downright misleading where it tantalizes you into thinking that you'll get some entertaining tales of Habsburg eccentricity, such as Juana the Mad touring around Spain with her dead husband's coffin: Mr. Wheatcroft doesn't discuss that story]. I have to agree with another reviewer that Mr. Wheatcroft can tell a good story when he wants, and does so early in the book with that of Leopold III's campaign against the Swiss. For that reason, I think that the choice of focus represents something of a missed opportunity. You cannot buy this book and, after reading it, feel that you have a solid feel the history of the times that it covers. You'll have to buy a second book. If you don't mind that, by all means buy this one too. If, however, you want to buy only one book on the Hapsburgs, you probably would want something else.
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