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For generations, the Habsburgs have resisted the interrogation of history, but in this book, covering the whole sweep of Habsburg history from the Middle Ages to the present, Andrew Wheatcroft utilizes a new approach. There is less about the lands and peoples that were ruled, and more about the rulers themselves, both as individuals and collectively. Andrew Wheatcroft uses the techniques of the archaeologist, scraping through the strata of past lives to rediscover the Habsburgs' own scale of values, their concerns, their totems and their fetishes. He explores how and why the Habsburgs have survived and how they are now moving confidently towards a new century, as ever imbued with their own curious and convoluted version of eternal life. This marvellous new work, the product of twenty years' study and research, defines the true nature of a unique Imperial dynasty.
The Habsburgs have been described at one extreme as demons – responsible for a ‘long history of atrocities’; and, at the other, as dodos – living fossils unable to adapt to the modern world. In reality, the flamboyant royal family appear, in many ways, to have behaved much like most other monarchies. Their story, however, is none the less enthralling for that. It is populated by such unforgettable figures as mad Queen Juana, progressing through Spain with her husband’s decaying body; the ‘heroically fertile’ Maria Theresa, and the quixotic Maximilian, ‘Emperor’ of Mexico.
Andrew Wheatcroft has written and lectured widely on European and Middle Eastern history. His books include The Ottomans and The Hapsburgs.