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The Austrians: A Thousand-Year Odyssey Paperback – February 15, 1998
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From Library Journal
Brook-Shepherd (The Last Empress, HarperCollins, 1991) attempts to give an overview of 1000 years of Austrian history in one volume. Because he was posted by the British Army to Vienna during the post-World War II occupation and personally knew many important Austrians, it is hardly surprising that he takes only 150 pages to cover 996-1914 and 362 pages to cover the final 82 years. Sadly, a disdain for footnotes and attribution defeats a lively writing style, and the work also suffers from annoying generalizations about national characteristics (e.g., "the endemic slackness of the Austrians"). Brook-Shepherd's inside knowledge, however, makes the book worthwhile. When he finally attributes new documents from the Hapsburg family archives, such as Empress Zita's previously unknown diary from the final days of the empire, he reveals new information. For public and undergraduate libraries but a frustration to scholars.?Randall L. Schroeder, Wartburg Coll. Lib., Waverly, Iowa
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Austria has always been a borderland, a collision point of cultures and politics. Surveying its story over the centuries, Brook-Shepherd brings the experience of long residence in Austria plus authorship of numerous books on specific episodes of Austrian history to chronicle the dynastic fortunes of the Hapsburgs, who, perched in the middle of the Danube basin, had to fend off invaders coming upriver (the Turks) or downriver (Protestants and later the French). Over time, the Hapsburgs assembled a remarkable multinational empire, with impossibly complicated constitutional arrangements whose evolution Brook-Shepherd nevertheless manages to make clear. But the flames of nationalism, the Serbian candle of which the Austrians recklessly attempted to snuff out in 1914, burned down the whole creaky edifice. The author then devotes great detail to Austria's unhappy experience through 1945 and its rehabilitation since then, with a few hangovers, such as having had a possible war criminal (Kurt Waldheim) as its president. A solidly informative and well-written work. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
"There is no need to recount here how the young and inexperienced empress survived the onslaught on her inheritance which was now lavished by those same powers who had promised to respect it; but survive, at the end, she did, though at the heavy cost of yielding up Silesia to Frederick II of Prussia."
Fortunately, beginning with the revolutionary year 1848, and even more so around the two world wars, the account becomes very detailed and interesting. The author has had first-hand experience with many of the events as an officer in Vienna's Allied Commission, and it shows throughout the text. It is nevertheless frustrating how the author skimmed over the period of Austria as a major European power and focused so much on the time when the Germans in Vienna decidedly started to play second fiddle to the Germans in Berlin.
The book enjoys almost no competition in the English language and so the reader cannot be too picky. This particular reader however wishes that the author had been more honest, dropped the opening part and called his book Austria in the 20th Century.