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  • The Habsburgs

  • The Rise and Fall of a World Power
  • By: Martyn Rady
  • Narrated by: Simon Bowie
  • Length: 14 hrs and 58 mins
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (94 ratings)

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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

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 15th 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 disorganised 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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio on our Desktop Site.

©2020 Martyn Rady (P)2020 Penguin Audio

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

4 Minutes per year is a tough ask.

This is a tough review to write. As a non historian who has lived and traveled extensively in Central and Eastern Europe , I came to this book with some background knowledge. Accordingly , there were times when I felt the amount dedicated to certain events was too short e.g. Charles V and the 30 years war. Equally , my knowledge of the Empire in the 18th century was enhanced.
It is always a problem for historians to decide how much context of what was happening outside the core subject to include in the narrative. Certainly, I felt at least a reference to Marlborough when discussing the Spanish War of Succession would have helped UK readers.

I do recommend the book to any reader with an interest in European history. It will be a stimulus to follow up on certain areas you previously knew little about.

Narration is good. By and large , Simon Bowle opens well with German expressions and Hungarian and Slavic names.

Finally, my thanks for giving me my Pub Quiz question of the year. Why does the Brazilian national soccer team play in yellow and green?



3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A superb telling of an incredible history!

This was one of the best history books I’ve had on audible, equal to Bettany Woods history of Istanbul. The book is great at providing fascinating details of a dynasty that shaped a continent. I listened compulsively to the excellent narration and highly recommend this book for anyone interested in European history.

3 people found this helpful

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Very educational

I learnt a lot reading this book having Never read about the Habsburgs before. Really interesting story, sometimes hard to follow and I considered giving up with it a couple of times but glad I finished.

1 person found this helpful

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Good general history

A nice general history of the dynasty including their cultural and political histories. Good if you want an introduction in my mind.

1 person found this helpful

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A well written account of a dynasty

An engaging and enjoyable narrative of the dynasty which ruled over much of Europe and the new world and became a byword for the dangers of inbreeding. From obscure origins in central Europe to their apogee under the rule of Emperor Charles V the Hapsburgs showed what could be achieved with cunning, endurance and a large slice of luck. Enjoyed the way in which the author balanced the personal qualities of the various rulers without losing track of the larger forces that were at work during the times in which they ruled.

1 person found this helpful

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Good overview - takes its time to get going

The narrator is not very fluent with some hesitations mid sentence. A little more production intervention would have helped and few retakes. Text wise the author assumes a lot more knowledge on the readers part particularly about the structure of the Holy Roman Empire. I had to consult Wikipedia several times. The Habsburg ‘split’ between Spain and Austria and the colonial story is done well. The book really goes up a gear when we reach Franz Josef, Maximilian, Rudolf’s suicide and Sarajevo but it’s a long time coming.

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Average reading of a good book

The narrator could speak with greater clarity (though pace is excellent). Mispronunciation of French, Spanish, etc words is understandable, but of English words is plain annoying.

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Terrible pronunciation

The reader was not able to pronounce the simplest words like 'Hofburg', 'Hofsbibliothek' and 'Alsace'. It distracted from the story.

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Quite interesting if not gripping writing

The rather monotonous tone of the narrator rather spoiled the book for this reader. But I persisted because of a general interest in the topic

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Good history: performance lets it down

A fascinating subject, comprehensively treated. shame the narrator's odd delivery and occasional mispronunciations got in the way: 'Zabreg'? 'dynastry'?