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The Fall of the House of Habsburg Paperback – January 27, 1983
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Difficult prose, but loaded with facts and history.If one is to understand the modern troubles in Europe, this book gives the exact light upon the cultural and political... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Uiltje
I am still reading the book. It is slow reading but very detailedPublished 11 months ago by Eli Bensky
You cannot go wrong with Edward Crankshaw. His biography of that creep Bismarck is still definitive. His prose is clear and lucid, his research impeccable.Published on July 8, 2014 by Rick
I bought a paperback copy, 1963 Eagle books (subsidiary of Popular Library) at a country fair several years ago for .10 cents. I Just read it. Great popular history! Read morePublished on March 13, 2014 by A. G Provencal
Granted, the book is an older one; but, I was surprised that it was in poorer shape than indicated in the listing. Read morePublished on June 27, 2013 by James A. Belteau
Clearly, Edward Crankshaw is a fluent, coherent, well informed writer. But it is equally clear he is not an academically trained historian, nor one who strives for objectivity. Read morePublished on April 25, 2013 by garwood