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The Fall of the House of Habsburg Paperback – January 27, 1983

3.8 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Edward Crankshaw (1909-1984) was a British writer, translator and commentator on Soviet affairs. Born in London, Crankshaw was educated in the nonconformist public school Bishop's Stortford College in Hertfordshire. He started working as a journalist for a few months at The Times. In the 1930s he lived in Vienna, Austria, teaching English and learning German (his competent grasp of German caused him to become part of the British Intelligence service during World War II). On his return he went back to write for The Times and began to write reviews mostly musical for The Spectator, The Bookman, and other periodicals. Crankshaw wrote around 40 books on Austrian and Russian subjects and after the war began his research in much more depth. Crankshaw's book on Nazi terror, Gestapo (1956), was widely read and in 1963 he began to produce the ambitious literary works, often on historical or monumental moments in Russian Political history.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (January 27, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333319265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333319260
  • ASIN: 0140064591
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #580,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Lowry on February 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
One of Crankshaw's best, this forthrightly conservative and sympathetic book is premised on the idea that, whatever its faults, Austria's solution to the problems of nationalism and the Balkans were not self-evidently worse than what followed in Europe. He's deliberately rebutting A.J.P. Taylor, as he also does in his biography of Bismarck.

But Crankshaw is too good a writer, and too intelligent, to beat a hobbyhorse. He writes magisterially of Franz Josef's reign and the many personalities who came and went. His description of the Franco-Austrian war is particularly good.

Readable and humane -- not to be missed by anyone who enjoys history.
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Format: Paperback
Edward Crankenshaw's sympathetic history of the last decades of the Habsburg Empire is an excellent and informative read and good to keep along side the equally good but slightly too harsh history by AJP Taylor. The one criticism of the book is that the author shows an obvious sympathy with the dynasty rather than simply relating the story. Comments on the Hungarians and reference to their manipulation and abuse of the 1867 Compromise to their own benefit are spoken in a censorious manner. The facts may be true but the Hungarians had a number of good reasons for not being crazy about the Empire or its ruling dynasty. To expect anything other than temporary and conditional loyalty from them is expecting too much from a nation the dynasty would have destroyed if it could.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although first published almost a half century ago, this remains an authoritative and highly readable account of the gradual decline and final fall of the Habsburg empire. Crankshaw provides a colorful and detailed account of the endless intrigues, conspiracies and machinations that characterized relations among the European powers in the 19th and early 20th century, culminating, of course, in World War I.

The Austrian monarchy had a dual problem unique to the Europe of the period: it was forced to thread its way through complicated foreign maneuverings; even more essential, it had to cope with and balance the multiple rivalries and interests of the ethnic groups that composed the Empire itself. Franz Josef, the decent and dedicated, if unimaginative, monarch slowly lost out on both counts. His rule, which lasted for 68 years, included wars lost first to Italy and France and then to Bismarck's Germany. Domestically, his ministers, many of them bumbling aristocrats, failed to come to grips with the rising nationalist ambitions of the Magyars and the varied Slavic language groups.

Crankshaw is not shy about exposing his biases. He admires Franz Josef `s courage and diligence while acknowledging his shortcomings. He takes an opposite view of Bismarck, respecting his brilliance, but recognizing the catastrophic long term damage his aggressiveness and militance brought to Europe. He despises the Magyars for their ruthlessness and narrow-minded assertion of their parochial interests.

Crankshaw crams a huge amount of historical detail into the space of 420 pages. Occasionally, his elaborate prose runs afoul of the point he is trying to convey. Occasionally, also, he assumes a greater background knowledge of the period than the reader is likely to bring. These, however, are minor flaws, in what is a grand and impressive historical narrative.
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Format: Paperback
This is a marvelous little history of one of the great royal dynasties of Eurpoe which came to an end with the First World War.
Proof of the universal appeal of this book and Crankshaw's writing style lies in the fact that this reviewer has read the book at three different times in his life (once as an undergraduate, another time at the conclusion of law school and yet another time about a year ago). Even though each of these three readings occurred at times when the reviewer's outlook and background on the subject matter was quite different, he derived pleasure and something new with each reading.
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Format: Paperback
3 out of 5. I purchased this book so that I could better appreciate a visit to Austria and I was not disappointed. I recommend for the non-historian, that a less scholarly read is perused first, as this book is chock-full of characters and so broad in scope and rich in description, that it is easy to lose track of people, places, and events. I took notes to better keep track of the lineage of the Hapsburg rulers and my subsequent impressions of them.
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Even though this book was written over thirty years ago and the period has probably been subject to many revised histories, I found this book interesting because it gives the in-depth reasoning behind the actions of the various players. It includes lots of intrigues and gives a glimpse of flawed personalities. My only complaint is the writer uses personal pronouns when he should name the person and it's confusing to whom he's referring at times. It seems unbiased, but it's difficult to know if it really is without reading dozens of other books for the period. It is not a good book to go to sleep by, but is excellent when you feel the need to make yourself smarter.
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Well, maybe that's a silly title, but Crankshaw's book has to be compared with A.J.P. Taylor's and the latter was a professor.

I'm sure Taylor is better informed, but Crankshaw is the better writer. Unless you're doing a degree and specializing in the Hapsburg dynasty, I'd read Crankshaw.

Ditto for the biographies of Bismarck that both men wrote. Crankshaw is the more enjoyable read unless you're majoring in German history.

I read mostly fiction and poetry, and so am no judge of historical writing, but I think learned professors might consider that the common reader can be put off by too many obscure allusions and too much technical jargon.
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