The Habsburg Empire

  • by Pieter M. Judson
  • Narrated by Michael Page
  • 18 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In a panoramic and pioneering reappraisal, Pieter M. Judson shows why the Habsburg Empire mattered so much, for so long, to millions of Central Europeans.
Rejecting fragmented histories of nations in the making, this bold revision surveys the shared institutions that bridged difference and distance to bring stability and meaning to the far-flung empire. By supporting new schools, law courts, and railroads along with scientific and artistic advances, the Habsburg monarchs sought to anchor their authority in the cultures and economies of Central Europe. A rising standard of living throughout the empire deepened the legitimacy of Habsburg rule, as citizens learned to use the empire's administrative machinery to their local advantage. Nationalists developed distinctive ideas about cultural difference in the context of imperial institutions, yet all of them claimed the Habsburg state as their empire.
The empire's creative solutions to governing its many lands and peoples - as well as the intractable problems it could not solve - left an enduring imprint on its successor states in Central Europe. Its lessons remain no less important today.


What the Critics Say

"[A] subtly argued work of deep scholarship.... A nuanced scholarly reappraisal of a significant European empire." ( Kirkus Reviews)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Life Under Habsburg Rule

This new history of the Habsburg Empire focuses on how the empire was perceived by the various national, political and class demographics, how people turned to the institutions of the empire for protection from their superiors and other demographics, and how politicians pursued their goals. The book contrasts the compromises between national demographics in Austria with the Hungarianisation of Hungary.

Pieter Judson does not cover the international events which affected the Habsburg Empire in detail, but he does provide overviews of internal policies which affected the subjects and demographics of the empire. He also provides an overview of the legacy of the empire on successor states, and how their policies towards national demographics contrasted with those of the empire. The book does not provide definitive accounts of Austria’s wars. However, there is an interesting segment on the impact of the First World War on the Habsburg Empire’s home front.

One thing people may find annoying, is the constant use of several names for one place. It would have been less annoying if the author listed the various names for each place when the place was first mentioned, then stuck with the name used by the highest authorities. Some places have three names.

Long chapters could have been divided more evenly. The first part of a chapter is considerably longer than the second. This is slightly annoying if you listen to a long chapter in 30-minute instalments. Michael Page delivers a strong, confident, clear narration.
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- Senior

Important counter to today's nationalisms

Judson's book is a fascinating attempt to dispel a persistent narrative, bolstered by nationalist and Cold War historians, of the Empire as a silly anachronism that somehow suppressed the 'natural' development of the ethnic groups within it. Obviously, there are some resonance in Europe today and Judson is clearly making a case for supra-national organisations in general as enablers of a benign and controlled expression of ethnic identity in contrast to its rather nastier post-Empire iterations (he tips his hand a bit in the closing chapter)

Like all serious history books, it becomes a bit bogged down in its audio version when getting in to some of the details, but attention is amply rewarded.

The reading is crisp and engaging throughout, although the decision to rather pedantically ensure every town and city was listed under its names in different languages was occasionally a bit wearisome.
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- Mr. M. J. Bright

Book Details

  • Release Date: 25-01-2017
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio