‘This is probably the best book ever written on the Habsburgs in any language, certainly the best I have ever read … Students, scholars and the general reader will never find a better guide to Habsburg history’ Alan Sked, Times Literary Supplement
In The Habsburgs, Martyn Rady tells the epic story of a dynasty and the world it built – and then lost – over nearly a millennium.
From modest origins, the Habsburgs grew in power to gain control of the Holy Roman Empire in the fifteenth century. Then, in just a few decades, their possessions rapidly expanded to take in a large part of Europe stretching from Hungary to Spain, and from the Far East to the New World. The family continued to dominate Central Europe until the catastrophe of the First World War.
With its seemingly disorganized mass of large and small territories, its tangle of laws and privileges and its medley of languages, the Habsburg Empire has always appeared haphazard and incomplete. But here Martyn Rady shows the reasons for the family’s incredible endurance, driven by the belief that they were destined to rule the world as defenders of the Roman Catholic Church, guarantors of peace and patrons of learning. The Habsburg emperors were themselves absurdly varied in their characters – from warlords to contemplatives, from clever to stupid, from idle to frenzied – but all driven by the same sense of family mission. Scattered around the world, countless buildings, institutions and works of art continue to bear witness to their overwhelming impact.
The Habsburgs is the definitive history of a remarkable dynasty that, for better or worse, shaped Europe and the world.