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The Habsburg Monarchy, C. 1765-1918: From Enlightenment to Eclipse

1 rating: -1.0
A book by Robin Okey

Scholars and students will welcome this fine survey of the Habsburg Monarchy in the modern era. --Choice

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: Robin Okey
Genre: History, Reference
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
1 review about The Habsburg Monarchy, C. 1765-1918: From...

A thorough portrait ... but for whom?

  • Mar 25, 2002
I was really disappointed by this book. As a history-reader, the Habsburg monarchy during the era covered by this title has always been one of my particular interests. As Robin Okey himself notes in his Foreword, general surveys of Austro-Hungarian history are rare -- particularly in English. I picked this volume up with great anticipation.

Unfortunately, I set it down again fairly quickly, and found it hard to resume reading. I wouldn't have thought he could do it, but Okey made me reluctant to read about one of my greatest and longest-standing historical interests.

The problem isn't that the book is poorly researched, badly written or tendentious in argument. On the contrary, it's so incredibly well researched that I had to wonder for whom it was written. For page after page, Okey goes really, really in depth on agricultural production statistics, analyses of economic growth, ethnological comparisons of literary and linguistic developments, political tensions between various nations and regions in the empire, the relative states of national aristocracies ... and much, much more. I now understand, better than ever before, what that old saw about 'the forest for the trees' means. Several times, I found myself so deeply mired in statistics that I forgot what decade Okey was talking about, let alone what point he was trying to make. The second half of the book was somewhat better than the first in this regard, but it was still tough reading at times.

In all, I am afraid this book may be way too much information for an amateur/generalist like me. At the same time, comprehensive as it is, it may not be enough for the specialists researching a specific, narrowly focused, topic. All of which makes me wonder, as I said, for whom it was written.

In that Foreword, Okey writes, 'It is hoped that there will be a place, therefore, for a survey of the Monarchy from the later eighteenth century that takes account of advances in Habsburg studies since the publication of C.A. Macartney's magisterial "The Habsburg Empire" in 1968.' After hacking through this dense book, I have to say that there is *still* a place for such a book -- at least where the amateur historian and general reader are concerned

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