The Habsburgs: To Rule the World

Martyn Rady. Basic, $32 (416p) ISBN 978-1-5416-4450-2
Rady (The Habsburg Empire: A Very Short Introduction), a history professor at University College London, delivers a granular yet accessible survey of the Habsburg Empire’s central role in the transformation of Western civilization from the Middle Ages into the modern world. Documenting the political and social contexts behind the reigns of each Habsburg ruler, Rady traces the empire’s rise from 13th-century Swabia (now southwestern Germany) to its 16th-century expansion into Spain and southern Italy and its 20th-century collapse. Milestone figures include Philip II of Spain (1527–1598), who controlled colonies in North and South America and Asia; Maria Theresa of Austria (1717–1780), who advanced Enlightenment ideals as she expanded government bureaucracy, mandated schooling for peasant children, and sent medical personnel to investigate rumors of vampirism across central Europe; and Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863–1914), whose assassination by a Yugolsav nationalist sparked WWI. Rady notes how the Habsburgs’ ability to consistently produce male heirs (their “genetic good fortune”) facilitated territorial expansion, but succumbed to “successive intermarriages” that led to infertility and infant death, contributing to the downfall of the monarchy’s Spanish branch. Packed with names, dates, and accounts of little-known wars, Rady’s prose is more easily digested in standalone chapters than as a linear narrative. This comprehensive account provides an insightful overview of seven centuries of European history. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 03/12/2020
Release date: 05/12/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-5491-3277-3
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