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Richelieu and Olivares (Canto original series) [Paperback]

J. H. Elliott
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: £17.99
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Book Description

26 July 1991 Canto original series
Cardinal Richelieu is one of the best known and most studied statesmen in European history; his Spanish contemporary and rival, the Count-Duke of Olivares, one of the least known. The contrasting historical fortunes of the two men reflect the outcome of the great struggle in seventeenth-century Europe between France and Spain: the triumph of France assured the fame of Richelieu, while Spain's failure condemned Olivares to historical neglect. This fascinating book by the distinguished historian J. H. Elliott argues that contemporaries, for whom Olivares was at least as important as Richelieu, shared none of posterity's certainty about the inevitability of that outcome. His absorbing comparative portrait of the two men, as personalities and as statesmen, through their policies and their mutual struggle, offers unique insights into seventeenth-century Europe and the nature of power and statesmanship.


Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reissue edition (26 July 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521406749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521406741
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 406,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'J. H. Elliott's elegant and penetrating study … is brief, readable, yet wide-ranging … Rather than offering a new orthodoxy, this pleasingly modest book has the great merit of raising questions it often does not pretend to solve, leaving the reader with plenty to think about.' The Times Literary Supplement

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Those two great antagonists, Richelieu and Olivares, were almost exact contemporaries. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable and interesting. 13 Feb 2002
Format:Paperback
This book is a very interesting comparative study of two relevant statesmen of the XVII century, Richelieu and Olivares, the former very [bad-]known through the eyes of The Three Musketeers by Hollywood with the cooperation of Alexandre Dumas, the latter ignored by most of the people, as it usually happens with those that lose a war. Apart from being very readable (I bought it on Sun-day and I have finished by Tuesday) and not very long, the contrast between Richelieu and Oli-vares is useful to avoid topics and myths based on the supposedly a-religious and modern per-formance of the French Cardinal versus the obsolete behaviour and ideas of the Count-Duke, or on the national character of France and/or Spain. In the case of Olivares, I have found that this book dedicates more pages to deal with the psychological and/or personal aspects than Elliot's "The Count-Duke of Olivares. The Statesman in an age of decline", who focuses more on poli-tics.

(Other books I would recommend to read on Spain: As a general overview, "A History of Spain" by Joseph Perez; and more focused on the XVI and/or XVII centuries: "The Spain of Philip II" by Joseph Perez; "Imperial Spain 1469-1716" and "The Count-Duke of Olivares. The Statesman in an age of decline" both of them also written by John Elliot; "Spain 1469-1714, A Society of Conflict", by Henry Kamen; and " Spain 1516-1598 : From Nation State to World Empire" and "The His-panic World in Crisis and Change, 1598-1700" both of them written by John Lynch).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars favorites 17 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In this book Elliott compares the lives of two 'favorites' of their respective kings, whose careers ran pretty much in parallel (at least in time). The writer argues that whereas Richelieu was much more succesful in the end than Olivares, they did not differ all that much in talent, application nor in general outlook on life - although he concedes Richelieu was the more far-sighted and the more decisive of the two.

For example in 1628 Richelieu jumped on the opportunity offered by the death of the last duke of Mantua just at the moment that he had completed the siege of La Rochelle & crossed the Alps like a modern-day Hannibal (although eventually the whole conflict ended in a stalemate). Olivares reacted only slowly even though everyone saw the Mantua succession issue coming for a long time. Also Olivares was too soft on the Catalans & the Portugese when they started to grumble allowing the situation to escalate into a full-scale rebellion that led to his own dismissal.

In general I found this book interesting and reasonably enjoyable to read. I and probably other readers less well versed in early seventeenth century politics would have appreciated a more chronologic setup, as well as a bit less of an optimistic assumption by the writer on the readers' knowledge level about the fairly complex and chaotic times in which these two heroes lived. For example, it may be true that 'the day of the dupes' is also described in other books but to assume that the reader is already intimately familiar with it is simply too optimistic. Still a good book though.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Double Study 9 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback
In the early 17th century, Richelieu was the principal minister of Louis XIII of France and Olivares was the same for Philip IV of Spain, two greatest European states of their time. In this interesting parallel biography, concentrating on their ministerial careers, Elliott seeks to show that, although Olivares and Richelieu were enemies, they were similar in many ways. Both were reformers, aiming at the construction of a centralised monarchy; both tried to increase the political influence of their countries, and both held onto power as advisors to weak kings to achieve this. They both led their nations into war to gain European predominance and they had to face military, economic and political crises in fighting wars that continued after their deaths. Elliott may be too keen to show their similarities rather than any differences, but this is the result his comparative treatment.

If Olivares was a statesman of the same rank as Richelieu, why is he now largely forgotten? Part of Elliott's answer is that the problems Olivares faced in Spain were greater than those Richelieu faced in France, particularly the lack of unity between the various territories of the Spanish monarchy and the problems of controlling them. Although this might suggest that he should have concentrated on domestic matters, Olivares embarked on an aggressive foreign policy whose failure led to war with France, and eventually their being on opposite sides in the Thirty Years War, to the frustration of his aims and finally his dismissal. Another element, which Elliott is rather reluctant to concede, is that although Olivares was able and hard-working, Richelieu was more decisive and better able to use any opportunities as they arose.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable and interesting. 13 Feb 2002
By César González Rouco - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is a very interesting comparative study of two relevant statesmen of the XVII century, Richelieu and Olivares, the former very [bad-]known through the eyes of The Three Musketeers by Hollywood with the cooperation of Alexandre Dumas, the latter ignored by most of the people, as it usually happens with those that lose a war. Apart from being very readable (I bought it on Sun-day and I have finished by Tuesday) and not very long, the contrast between Richelieu and Oli-vares is useful to avoid topics and myths based on the supposedly a-religious and modern per-formance of the French Cardinal versus the obsolete behaviour and ideas of the Count-Duke, or on the national character of France and/or Spain. In the case of Olivares, I have found that this book dedicates more pages to deal with the psychological and/or personal aspects than Elliot's "The Count-Duke of Olivares. The Statesman in an age of decline", who focuses more on poli-tics.

(Other books I would recommend to read on Spain: As a general overview, "A History of Spain" by Joseph Perez; and more focused on the XVI and/or XVII centuries: "The Spain of Philip II" by Joseph Perez; "Imperial Spain 1469-1716" and "The Count-Duke of Olivares. The Statesman in an age of decline" both of them also written by John Elliot; "Spain 1469-1714, A Society of Conflict", by Henry Kamen; and " Spain 1516-1598 : From Nation State to World Empire" and "The His-panic World in Crisis and Change, 1598-1700" both of them written by John Lynch).
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful interpretation of the history of France and Spain during the 1600's 31 Aug 2010
By E. Jaksetic - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
During the 1600's, France and Spain contended for power and influence in Europe, while each country was facing significant domestic turmoil and major economic difficulties. This book examines the rivalry between France and Spain through the perspective of the lives and careers of two men who were key advisors and ministers of the French and Spanish kings: Cardinal Richelieu of France and Count-Duke Olivares of Spain.

The author presents an interesting analysis of the lives and careers of Cardinal Richelieu and Count-Duke Olivares as they struggled with national and international politics, the personalities of their kings and other royal family members, court intrigue, religious constraints, family obligations, limited economic resources, and the fortunes of war. The author provides a multidimensional portrait of two ambitious, talented men who acted in various ways to address and cope with difficult problems and situations facing their countries, their kings, their families, and themselves.

In the end, Cardinal Richelieu mostly prevailed and Count-Duke Olivares mostly failed. The book makes a persuasive case that Cardinal Richelieu's overall success was not easy or complete, and that Count-Duke Olivares's ultimate failure was not easily predictable or inevitable. The book provides an interesting case study on how two talented and determined people had to plan and act within the constraints and practical realities of their times, and how they responded (sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully) to unexpected events and the failure of some of their plans and actions.

This is a book for careful reading and reflection, not for casual reading. Although the book is written for historians and serious students of history, it is written in a style that can be read and understood by a non-historian interested in the subjects it covers.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic 18 Mar 2010
By N. Helfinstine - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is justly considered a modern classic. Richelieu is famous. But who has heard of his rival, the chief minister of Spain, the Count-Duke Olivares? France won, Spain lost, and Olivares slipped into obscurity and historical disdain. Elliott's take is that Richelieu and Olivares were mirrors, facing very similar issues and trials, and both exemplars of their times. Their long struggle ended in a victory for Richelieu, but for Elliott, the result was not because of any deficiencies on Olivares's part, but a matter of Spain's inferior economic arrangements; and that France's victory was a close one after all.

This is an excellent introduction to the great Hapsburg/Bourbon rivalry that rearranged the powers of Europe, setting the scene for the age of colonization.
5.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Double Study 18 Aug 2014
By S. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In the early 17th century, Richelieu was the principal minister of Louis XIII of France and Olivares was the same for Philip IV of Spain, the two greatest European states of their time. In this interesting parallel biography, concentrating on their ministerial careers, Elliott seeks to show that, although Olivares and Richelieu were enemies, they were similar in many ways. Both were reformers, aiming at the construction of a centralised monarchy; both tried to increase the political influence of their countries, and both held onto power as advisors to weak kings to achieve this. They both led their nations into war to gain European predominance and they had to face military, economic and political crises in fighting wars that continued after their deaths. Elliott may be too keen to show their similarities rather than any differences, but this is the result his comparative treatment.

If Olivares was a statesman of the same rank as Richelieu, why is he now largely forgotten? Part of Elliott's answer is that the problems Olivares faced in Spain were greater than those Richelieu faced in France, particularly the lack of unity between the various territories of the Spanish monarchy and the problems of controlling them. Although this might suggest that he should have concentrated on domestic matters, Olivares embarked on an aggressive foreign policy whose failure led to war with France, and eventually their being on opposite sides in the Thirty Years War, to the frustration of his aims and finally his dismissal. Another element, which Elliott is rather reluctant to concede, is that although Olivares was able and hard-working, Richelieu was more decisive and better able to use any opportunities as they arose. In addition, Olivares faced only slight opposition in Spain until almost the end of his career, but Richelieu faced continual opposition from those who wished for a compromise peace with Spain. On balance therefore, Richelieu was the better statesman and, as France won the war, he is remembered

Elliott's parallel study of the two statesmen is interesting and, in clarifying the significance of Olivares and rescuing him from obscurity, he presents a readable introduction to Olivares for English students. He is obviously the master of his subject and writes clearly and with empathy for his two subjects.
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of research and the compare/contrast approach explains somewhat the ... 16 Aug 2014
By Augustine A. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Lots of research and the compare/contrast approach explains somewhat the emergence of power after Spain and Portugal's declines.You have to want to discover these approaches as it is not a pleasant story and the royals were not pleasant people to deal with. Form the most part their belief in divine empowerment with less education made them difficult to see the big picture which Richelieu was able to accomplish.
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