The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age of Decline Reprint Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0300044997
ISBN-10: 0300044992
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The royal ministers Olivares and Richelieu ruled European politics in the 1620s and 1630s. Olivares failed, Richelieu succeeded; Richelieu is well known today and Olivares is not. Elliott's long-awaited biography of the Spanish favorite of Philip IV should help to remedy this injustice. This is no work of adulation; Elliott is generous in his judgement of Olivares but never indulgent. He feels that Olivares could have done little in the long run to change the course of events that overwhelmed him, but he still bears the responsibility for his own bad choices. Elliott's judgement is as always impeccable, his analysis acute. David Keymer, Dean of Students, SUNY Coll. of Technology, Utica
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 738 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reprint edition (September 10, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300044992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300044997
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #966,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
This very well written and interesting biography is a narrative of the career of the Count-Duke of Olivares, the royal favorite who was the principal minister of the Spanish crown for the first half of the reign of Philip IV. Essentially a description of Olivares' ministerial career, this book provides considerable insight into both Olivares himself and the nature of early modern states. Olivares came to power when the teenage Philip succeeded his father. He had previously established himself as the royal favorite and seems to have had a paternal relationship with Philip. An intelligent and very diligent individual, Olivares seems to have been motivated to pursue political power by a combination of personal ambition, ambition for his family's status, a sincere devotion to service to the Crown, and a strong sense of religious devotion to the Catholic cause. Olivares assumed power under challenging circumstances. The Spanish Hapsburg state, bolstered by the riches of the Western Hemisphere, had been the most powerful polity in 16th century Europe. By the 17th century, however, Spain was challenged by the Dutch and the French, and was entangled in the complex politics in the low countries, Germany, and Italy. Along with many other intelligent Spaniards, Olivares recognized that coping with the decline of the Spanish state required considerable reform.

Over the course of his dominance of Spanish politics and foreign policy, Olivares attempted multiple reforms. These included attempts to overhaul the creaky tax structure, find a reliable currency, revive Spanish trade, and ward off the challenges of the Dutch, the French, and threats to Catholicism in the Holy Roman Empire.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M. Derby VINE VOICE on May 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
J.H. Elliott once again captures the decline of imperial Spain. Elliott focuses on the strange career of the Count-Duke Olivares (it may tell you something about the man that he refused to give up either of the titles and so used both). Olivares was the favorite, the chief minister, of Phillip IV, early in the seventeenth century. While Olivares dreamed and planned to return Spain to past glories, he failed despite some early successes. By the end of his tenure in office, Spain was on the ropes in terms of economics and as a military power. The task was herculean and, as pompous and as scheming as Olivares was, he was also very competent. If Phillip was the "planet king" as Olivares grandly labeled him, then his favorite was the moon-circling and controlling the tides. Olivares was involved in everything-art, the king's personal behavior, trade, the colonies, religion, war, internal affairs, diplomacy, building a political structure. If Olivares could not salvage the Spanish situation, it may be fair to say that no one individual could. There are some things beyond political solutions and Spain's decline was one of them. The work is fascinating and leaves a haunting portrait of the limits of politics. Elliott offers a vivid portrait of this statesman and his world and it should be read by historians and political leaders alike.
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By des valkanov on June 11, 2015
Format: Paperback
Thorough and well researched, the book offers a brilliant account of the mind and life of one of the most important figures in Spanish imperial history. It contains a wealth of primary sources - documents, letters and diplomatic reports. J. H. Elliott is a truly great historian.
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By Banfield on May 29, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is both a well-done biography of the Count-Duke of Olivares and a study of court dynamics in the first 22 years of the reign of Phillip IV. I read this together with another book by the same author, Spain and the World, 1500-1700, which I also recommend.
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In the line of great histories, superlative. As a preamble to the 30 years war, from the Spanish perspective, unbeatable. As an interpretative view of the statesman, Olivares, penetrating and pertinant to all holders of power.
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