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In a panoramic and pioneering reappraisal, Pieter Judson shows why the Habsburg Empire mattered so much, for so long, to millions of Central Europeans. Across divides of language, religion, region, and history, ordinary women and men felt a common attachment to "their empire," while bureaucrats, soldiers, politicians, and academics devised inventive solutions to the challenges of governing Europe's second largest state. In the decades before and after its dissolution, some observers belittled the Habsburg Empire as a dysfunctional patchwork of hostile ethnic groups and an anachronistic imperial relic. Judson examines their motives and explains just how wrong these rearguard critics were.

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.

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About the Author

Pieter M. Judson is Professor of 19th and 20th Century History at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.

Reviews

Spectacularly revisionist Judson argues that the empire was a force for progress and modernity This is a bold and refreshing book Judson does much to destroy the picture of an ossified regime and state.--A. W. Purdue"Times Higher Education" (05/12/2016)" Crisply written and nuanced With invigorating precision, [Judson] analyses how the state was built up by various forces working simultaneously from above and below. His view is not blurred by the unhelpful nostalgia with which so many accounts are suffused.--Adam Zamoyski"Literary Review" (05/01/2016)" Pieter M. Judson s book informs and stimulates. If his account of Habsburg achievements, especially in the 18th century, is rather starry-eyed, it is a welcome corrective to the black legend usually presented. Lucid, elegant, full of surprising and illuminating details, it can be warmly recommended to anyone with an interest in modern European history.--Tim Blanning"Wall Street Journal" (06/10/2016)" This is an engaging reappraisal of the empire whose legacy, a century after its collapse in 1918, still resonates across the nation-states that replaced it in central Europe. Judson rejects conventional depictions of the Habsburg empire as a hopelessly dysfunctional assemblage of squabbling nationalities and stresses its achievements in law, administration, science and the arts.--Tony Barber"Financial Times" (07/01/2016) Judson s reflections on nations, states and institutions are of broader interest, not least in the current debate on the future of the European Union after Brexit. Refreshingly, his book also challenges lasting presumptions about differences between Europe east and west, backward and developed, ethnic and civic. His narrative may be one of many possible readings of Habsburg history, as he himself says yet it is one that is both nuanced and compelling.--Annabelle Chapman"Prospect" (09/01/2016)" Indispensable to any serious library.--Simon Heffer"Daily Telegraph" (11/26/2016) Pieter M. Judson's book informs and stimulates. If his account of Habsburg achievements, especially in the 18th century, is rather starry-eyed, it is a welcome corrective to the black legend usually presented. Lucid, elegant, full of surprising and illuminating details, it can be warmly recommended to anyone with an interest in modern European history.--Tim Blanning"Wall Street Journal" (06/10/2016) Spectacularly revisionist...Judson argues that...the empire was a force for progress and modernity...This is a bold and refreshing book...Judson does much to destroy the picture of an ossified regime and state.--A. W. Purdue"Times Higher Education" (05/12/2016) Crisply written and nuanced...With invigorating precision, [Judson] analyses how the state was built up by various forces working simultaneously from above and below. His view is not blurred by the unhelpful nostalgia with which so many accounts are suffused.--Adam Zamoyski"Literary Review" (05/01/2016) Judson's reflections on nations, states and institutions are of broader interest, not least in the current debate on the future of the European Union after Brexit. Refreshingly, his book also challenges lasting presumptions about differences between Europe east and west, backward and developed, ethnic and civic. His narrative may be one of many possible readings of Habsburg history, as he himself says--yet it is one that is both nuanced and compelling.--Annabelle Chapman"Prospect" (09/01/2016) Strongly revisionist and effortlessly wide-ranging, Judson's book offers a strikingly original interpretation of Austria-Hungary as an empire rather than a collection of hostile national groups. This powerful insight should change how we think about European history.--Robert Nemes, author of Another Hungary: The Nineteenth-Century Provinces in Eight Lives Judson forever banishes images of the Habsburg Empire as a decrepit and declining anachronism. This is the history we have been waiting for since the empire disappeared from Europe's map.--Tara Zahra, author of The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World A masterpiece of historical rethinking by one of the great Habsburg historians of our age. Judson reminds us of how little we have fully grasped the subtleties and complexities of Habsburg history.--Larry Wolff, author of The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture

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