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This book is a narrative history of the Austrian Monarchy from 1790 to its break-up in 1918. Its theme is the hundred year struggle between the venerable dynastic empire which ruled Central Europe, and the new national, political and social forces in conflict with it, an with one another. The author starts with the death of Emperor Joseph 11 in 1790, the event which he takes as marking the turn of the tide in the struggle between autocracy and centralisation on the one side, and the new forces on the other; but he prefixes his narrative with a brief account of Joseph’s own reign, and with a comprehensive picture of the old monarchy on the threshold of the new age. C. A. Macartney takes his subject as comprising the monarchy as a whole, every people, class and province in it. He thus brings and makes intelligible the diversity within the unity, and the unity synthesising the diversity, which give the history of the Austrian Monarchy its special and unique character.
The author was long acquainted with the countries and peoples that were once part of the Habsburg Empire and it was this experience, combined with linguistic accomplishments that enabled him to draw on an exceptionally wide range of sources. The result is a work of monumental scholarship written with unique insight and understanding.
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