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Vienna and Versailles: The Courts of Europe's Dynastic Rivals, 1550-1780 (New Studies in European History)

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521822626
ISBN-10: 0521822629
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Editorial Reviews


"[Duindam] has written an important book that historians of early modern courts and state formation will need to absorb." Malcom Smuts, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Renaissance Quarterly

"... Duindam paints a fascinating portrait of court life in the late-seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries...." Habsburg (H-Net)

"...no future scholar of Vienna or Versailles will be able to ignore his carefully researched book. Comparatists are well advised to study it closely. This publication--like that of Elias before him--will provide the impetus for much new scholarship in the historiography of the early modern European court." H-German (H-Net)

"The author of this outstanding work traces in scrupulous detail the evolution of the royal household in France and Austria from the Renaissance to the eve of the global wars of the French Revolution." The Historian

"The author is to be congratulated for a first book that represents a tour de force of scholarship across two centuries of documents in some of the less riveting fonds of the Austrian State Archives." Austrian History Yearbook

"Solidly researched and lucidly written, this book is clearly a worthwhile and important study. The author's conclusions have major bearing not only on the nature of the court but also on the overall shape of politics in both countries. Its appearance is another welcome sign that the royal court has begun to attract the kind of sophisticated, intensive investigation that other state institutions of this period have received for two generations or more." The Journal of Modern History Thomas E. Kaiser, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Book Description

This book brings vividly to life the courtiers and servants of the imperial court in Vienna and the royal court in Paris-Versailles from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. It draws together a wealth of unpublished material in a comparative framework, and helps us to understand how the household operated at the heart of the early modern state. It also offers original approaches to both statebuilding and the notion of 'absolutism'. This is the first institutional study of these courts, and the only comparative study based on archival materials.

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Product Details

  • Series: New Studies in European History
  • Hardcover: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521822629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521822626
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.4 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,730,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By César González Rouco on February 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Historian Norbert Elias' classic works Court Society and The Civilizing Process had presented a problematic view of the Early Modern monarchies and courts. In his "Myths of Power. Norbert Elias and the Early Modern European Court ", Duindam concluded that Elias' approach to the early modern European court containes many misunderstandings, especially those connected with the much-heralded rise of the middle class and its inseparable companion, modernization. In this descriptive world, the author does not aim at providing a new model to understand European courts, but simply to compare the French court and the court of the Austrian Habsburgs, probably trying to show that there is still much work to be done before rendering any new general theory. The book is no very engaging, but it is not dry either. It can be savoured by the professional historian, and perhaps, by the educated layperson too.Therefore, my rate is 5 (content) and 2/3 (pleasure of reading).

Other books that I would recommend would be "Kings or People: Power and the Mandate to Rule by Reinhard Bendix"; "State and status" by Samuel Clark; "Monarchy, Aristocracy, and the State in Europe, 1300-1800" by Hillay Zmora; "Nobilities in Transition 1550-1700: Courtiers and Rebels in Britain and Europe" by Ronald G. Asch; and "The Persistence of the Ancient Regime" by Arno J. Mayer (this last one covering approximately the 1815-1914 period).
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Format: Hardcover
At the outset of Vienna and Versailles, Duindam carefully reconstructs court life in Versailles while simultaneously employing a structural and comparative perspective with Europe's other great court in Vienna. His examination spans the time period between the mid sixteenth to late seventeenth centuries, in what he regards as the `Great Age' of these two rival courts.

In doing so, the author systematically dispels the myth of Louis XIV's `absolutist' power - exercised through his court - and comprehensively illustrates how this notion was more of an ideal than reality. Researched over the course of one year in the libraries and archives of Vienna and Paris, the result provides us with a wealth of information which challenges the problematic views of earlier writers of the Early Modern court.

In this cross study of the Habsburg imperial court in Vienna and Bourbon royal court in Versailles, Duindam ensures that all major historical factors are taken into consideration, most commendably a representation of female actors as a category of historical analysis. Duindam presents a more accurate view of monarchy, nobility, and court society and deserves high praise for the breadth of his scholarship and the significance of his contribution to court studies.

Admittedly, the books' index is incredibly insufficient and, although the subject matter is noticeably geared to be read by an academic audience rather than the general public, the work as a whole is undoubtedly quite fascinating. Furthermore, Duindam's thematic organization and vast scholarly bibliography incorporates both recent publications and standard works on the topic which, incidentally, paves the way for further examination of both courts.
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