By his own admission in the preface Charles Ingrao has been set an impossible task. Namely, to address simultaneously both a student and a scholarly audience on this most diverse of historical subjects. Unable to assume much fundamental knowledge in his readership, he is also unwilling to neglect the minutiae of every issue. In short, his brief was to tell the detailed story of the most complex monarchical grouping of states in Europe throughout two centuries of unremitting religious, philosophical, social and political turbulence in 262 pages. Before one considers the degree of his success or lack of it, like Dr Johnson’s walking dog, we must first admire the fact that he has done it at all.
The book’s principal achievement, in keeping with the rest of the ‘new approach’ series from the Cambridge Press, is to challenge the traditional, often unconscious assumption that the Habsburg monarchy was not much more than a huge jumble of unrelated entities misruled from Vienna by corruption in uniform. A sort