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3.8 out of 5 stars19
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on 14 September 2014
While there are some interesting parts to this book, the reader should be aware, this is not a history of the Habsburgs in the usual sense, but a discussion of the dynasty's use of image in creating its sense of empire. Therefore, while the book takes you through the general history of the most important Habsburg kings and emperors, it does not explain the historical backdrop, but only comment upon it. If you are looking to get a better picture of European history, than this book isn't for you. You really need to be familiar with it already to fully appreciate what you are reading.

Furthermore, the author does not take the time to fully differentiate between Holy Roman Emperors, kings, and other important Habsburgs. To do this you need to look at the family tree in the back of the book, but it is so small, packed and written in such tiny font, that it is too time consuming to find everyone you are looking for. And many of the interesting Habsburgs highlighted in Amazon's blurb about the book, barely get a mention in the actual narrative.

For a book written about images, is sorely lacking in them. So many times the author is discussing paintings and the like, but fails to give us an image so we can see it for ourselves. This book is wanting in so many places, I can not give it a strong recommendation. You may enjoy it if you like art history and have enough time to search the web for the images he speaks about yourself.
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on 14 November 2012
Having read Mr. Wheatcroft's epic 'Enemy at the Gates' I did not hesitate a second about buying this one. This is an ambitious book given its scope. Sensibly, Wheatcroft did not attempt to write a 'complete' history of all the Habsburgs; instead he tried to find a commmonality across the ages. He seems to believe that there was a distinct 'something' common to all the Habsburgs across all those centuries but I cannot say that I was convinced. Surely all the Habsburg rulers were children of their own times and had far less in common with one another than with their contemporaries - for example it is very difficult to believe that, to pick a couple, Joseph II had anything more in common with Felipe II, than each had with their contemporary non-Habsburg rulers. Having said this, I still found this book interesting enough to make it worth the read. However, 'Enemy at the gates' is really much much better.
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on 12 November 2003
There's something here to delight any reader interested in European history, whether monarchist or republican. The Habsburg dynasty, sometime rulers of Austria, Germany, Spain, Tuscany and very briefly Mexico, were the consummate career monarchs. Wheatcroft's account deliberately ignores the large-scale events of European history, giving scant coverage to the three wars (Thirty Years, Spanish Succession, and First World War) which cost the dynasty so much of its power. Instead, he focusses on the characters of individual rulers, including some who are often overlooked, and on the iconography of the dynasty. Learn about the emperor Maximilian's literary works, the 'Plus Ultra' motto, and contemporary cartoons of the empress Maria Theresa. There are also some interesting details on Spanish culture in the inquisition era, one of the dynasty's times of infamy. The notes are almost a book in themselves, and well worth reading. The hardback edition has more pictures than the paperback, including colour plates and my favourite Habsburg picture, which shows the young Maria Theresa addressing sword-waving Hungarian diet members while holding her baby son. That said, the pictures in the paperback are good too. My only warning to readers is that they should have a dictionary of european history to hand, or some other source, to match up the wars and revolutions which Wheatcroft deliberately skirts around.
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on 3 April 2012
Like the Danube, the course of central European history is not straightforward, and the Habsburg dynasty has channelled over six centuries of it. As an amateur, what I had sought, therefore, was an account that would collate the better known episodes, such as Charles V's abdication, the siege of Vienna, etc, and draw them into a single narrative. After the first chapter (38 pages) I have given up, having slithered back and forth between the earlier centuries to no avail. No shortage here of furiously detailed material, but in my view it produces no more than a Shakespearean medley of pomp, derring-do, dastardly deeds, pageantry and gore. For an objective appraisal of cited sources and, generally, a narrative coherence, I shall look elsewhere.
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on 17 September 2013
An interesting and enlightening glide through the history of this fascinating and extraordinary family, who are still very much with us today. Despite the different and interesting perspective that he takes on their story, he still provides enough information to give the novice (like me) a useful insight into the subject, and a sense of their character as human beings. Even so, Wheatcroft tends to be needlessly verbose at times (do things really need to elide when they can merge?), and even a fairly experienced reader may feel the need to interrupt their reading to reach for a dictionary once in a while. The positing of the Battle of Sempach in 1386 at the beginning of the work, covering a total of some 18 of its first pages, is also a needless distraction. Over all, there are times when one suspects that Wheatcroft wishes to say more about himself than his subject matter.
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on 13 December 2014
A fascinating study of the Habsburg dynasty from a personal angle rather than straight history.My interest was kindled with a recent visit to Vienna and I found this book informative and illuminating.Well written with interesting illustrations.
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on 19 March 2016
This is an entertaining book with fascinating descriptions of different epochs of the Habsburgs' rule.It covers a period of nearly 1000 years. It is intriguing for me to read about medieval battle scenes and when history meant myths and legends. The coverage of the book is no doubt ambitious and there must have been a lot of information to sieve through. The information might have overwhelmed the author as he has not done a great job in piecing his research together in any form of organised manner. The transitions from one episode to another are very jerky, making it impossible for reader to build a coherent picture of what was going on. The selection of materials to be expanded on seems a bit random too, suggesting the author's indulgence on subjects of his interest rather than what the reader would find beneficial to know. That is to say, the balance of the book cannot be justified from the reader's point of view. But the description of the selected localised subjects is interesting enough for me to carry on reading it through. Beyond that this book has very little to be commended for. You will not gain a historical perspective of the dynasty and its rule. It doesn't help you understand the Central Europe's politics. I am none wiser after reading the book. The relationship among Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Rome, German, Prussia etc is still confounding to me. The book never explains anything - this is very frustrating if you are looking for some answers.
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on 26 May 2000
Bearing in mind the fact that no book has ever before covered the entire Habsburg dynasty, one assumes that this book would make the effort to do so. Instead, this book tries to make a virtue of ignoring the major events and not telling the reader much about the lives of the major players. It prefers to concentrate on the art and architecture of the period and to construct a complicated mindset which the author claims to be one shared by all Habsburgs regardless of country of birth, upbringing and generation. In short, if you want a historical biography this is not the book for you. If you are interested in sets of descirptions of pictures you cannot see in the book combined with pyschobabble, then buy this book (off me, preferably so I don't have let it gather dust on my shelves!)
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on 28 January 2012
although not the complete history of the dinasty in here, it makes a good and interesting read. the authors view is very personal, and there are some gaps in the history of the family, but its a good first approach for somebody interested in this subject.
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on 25 December 2014
I read this is a marvellous first approach to Central European history, politics and the Hapsburgs while skiing outside Innsbruck. Some chapters are full of impenetrable interconnections of treaties and relations and totally new facts, others are wholly intriguing and easy to read, like an easy novel. Remember, it is just the first toe into this area, you (I) must read more to try to decipher those difficult chapters. I recommend reading "the Hapsburgs" at one level, to make sightseeing in the Hapsburs centres like Innsbruck more interesting and at another to understand how middle Europe buffers Western Europe from the Turks, Moslems, the Asian Hordes and the modern Communist Russian States. I now have a new area of interest.
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