A nuanced scholarly reappraisal of a significant European empire.



A fresh look at this sprawling empire that rejects its previous characterization as “backward” and asserts an overall administrative enlightenment the citizenry found engaging.

At the heart of this subtly argued work of deep scholarship, Judson (19th and 20th Century History/European Univ. Institute; Guardians of the Nation: Activists on the Language Frontiers of Imperial Austria, 2007, etc.) provides a careful examination of the imperial institutions, administrative policies, and cultural practices that reached far and wide into the vast Hapsburg Empire. As he moves chronologically, the author argues that from the “accidental” reign of Maria Theresa in the 17th century onward, the empire that had steadily grown in size with some brilliant dynastic marriages since the 15th century became a “model of common imperial citizenship,” which emancipated the peasants and considerably extended education and literacy. Maria Theresa inaugurated a strong centralized authority, extending from Transylvania in the east to Innsbruck in the west, from Prague to Trieste, with a rooted sense that individuals had “common legal rights and obligations anchored in their unmediated relationship to a central state.” The subsequent reigns of her sons, Joseph II and Leopold II, and nephew Francis—the last Holy Roman Emperor until its dissolution in 1804, when he became Francis I, Emperor of Austria—consolidated and furthered her reforms. On the one hand, Judson argues, the empire of “enlightened despots” represented a full-fledged rule of law, with a burgeoning bureaucracy; on the other hand, it was anxious about its people’s increasingly social and political activism, especially in Hungary. The industriousness and civic-mindedness in the citizenry (“engagement in public life”) propelled society when the central authority broke down. Morover, where previous historians have characterized Chancellor Klemens Metternich’s rule as a police state, Judson sees an emerging liberalism. The empire’s need to navigate concepts of nationhood based on diverse languages did not sink the empire after World War I so much as the corrosive effects of wartime misery, famine, and harsh military treatment.

A nuanced scholarly reappraisal of a significant European empire.

Pub Date: April 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-674-04776-1

Page Count: 562

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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