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The Habsburgs Paperback – May 1, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140236341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140236347
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

108 of 113 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Many positive things have been said about this book (mostly valid) so I'll just jump to three sticking points which potential readers should keep in mind before buying it.
1.This book asserts that the Habsburgs consciously created and manipulated their own families mythology to a degree unseen in Europe. This is greatly misleading for it forgets (unbelievably) the other great mythology making machines around at the time (the Medici's in Florence, the Bourbons in France and so on).
2.Though the Habsburgs did manipulate their image via various means it cannot be stated with the certainty with which Wheatcroft does that it was a conscious family project from the days of Rudolf I (1218-1291). Certainly it preoccupied his later descendents but Rudoplf and his immediate progeny were simply behaving in a pattern familiar to most rulers of the time.
3. I must also stress that the book is not an easy read, mostly due to the fact that the author jumps around the historic timeline and throws in a few dozen Hapsburg names (some with no numbers attached which can be really confusing seeing as the Habsburgs shared names profusely) to confuse things even more. I also disliked the references made to figures of whom we know nothing about and who the author says nothing about.
Oh and this is not a history of the rulers themselves but rather a book on how the Habsburgs manipulated their image down the centuries. Do not buy it if you want to find out about individual rulers achievements, acts etc. Very little of that can be found in this book.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By J. G. Heiser on April 1, 2001
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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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 7, 2000
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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ex Libris GM on June 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book gives a reasonably coherent overview of a dynasty that was eminent and influential in European politics from the 13th to the early 20th centuries. The author maintains a more or less chronological order of who followed whom and presents a concise history of the events that occurred during their reign. He also presents some insights and facts about the personal characteristics and traits of the more noteworthy Hapsburg (or Habsburg, if you like) rulers. At appropriate places in the text he inserts applicabnle commentary and quotes by contemporary observers. The book also includes numerous paintings as figures throughout the book.

The book is not as bad as some reviewers would lead you to believe. What I liked about it is that (to me, at least) it didn't get bogged down in tedious detail of each Hapsburg generation but gave the major facts and figures in an informative manner. Given that the Hapsburgs wielded power in Spain and Austria at the same time, I thought his treatment was informative without being boring. It would be nice if the author had inserted the applicable figure number for a view of the subject as he presented him (or her) but this is a personal preference.
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