History of Austria-Hungary?
November 27, 2012 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend good books on the history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, specifically their part in WWI and the breakup of the Empire?
posted by the man of twists and turns to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
If you haven't read The Guns of August, I'd highly recommend starting there.

The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918, by Holger Hedwig, is told from a German point of view, and is largely accusatory of the Austro-Hungarian Army, which is somewhat controversial, but it's an exceptional analysis nonetheless, and extremely informative.
posted by eenagy at 4:29 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oscar Jászi's The Dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy, originally published in 1929, is obviously antiquated as far as historical detail goes, but it's a great inside look from a remarkable man, a liberal who saw what was coming but couldn't affect it; to quote the back cover, he "spent twenty years studying the dangers that threatened this monarchy but his practical plans for averting these dangers were not given a hearing until it was too late."

For a more up-to-date look at these events, John W. Mason's The Dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1867-1918 is probably what you want.

And for real nitty-gritty detail, with all the memoranda and personal letters from rulers reproduced, there's Sidney Bradshaw Fay's The Origins of the World War (Volume I, Volume II).
posted by languagehat at 5:00 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have kind of an obsession with the decline of the Habsburg empire, though more from the social/cultural history side rather than the military/political. I definitely agree that The Guns of August and Mason's Dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire are good places to start if you want to focus on events leading up to WWI.

A few other suggestions:

It's not recent (it was originally published during WWII), but A.J.P. Taylor's The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918 is a classic, old-school "big picture" view, especially of the tensions in an empire that comprised dozens of ethnicities and emerging nationalities. Alan Palmer's Twilight of the Habsburgs is handy in showing how Emperor Franz Joseph's combination of rigidity and shallowness made for an extremely reactionary, backwards political environment of that was largely unequipped to deal with modernity in any way.

Frederic Morton's A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889 looks at the the coming artistic/intellectual upheavals in Vienna at the turn of the century, as seen through the lens of the last 8 months or so in the life of Crown Prince Rudolf, who -- in complete contrast to his father -- was progressive, intellectual, and politically astute regarding the empire's emerging problems. (Needless to say, he was despised and marginalized for this, which led in part to his suicide.) Its sequel, Thunder At Twilight: Vienna 1913-1914 (fact: every other book dealing with this period in Austrian history is required to include the word "twilight" in its title) follows up on the culture and politics of Vienna immediately preceding the war (Klimt! Freud! Trotsky! Hitler!), and looks at the conflicts between Franz Ferdinand (who became heir upon Rudolf's death) and Franz Joseph that preceded Franz Ferdinand's assassination.

Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head; I'll post more when I get home if some other titles jump out at me. (If you have any interest specifically in Crown Prince Rudolf's suicide, let me know -- I am reasonably certain I've read nearly everything published in English about it, so I can point you to the good sources and steer you away from the bad.)
posted by scody at 5:36 PM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: You also might want to look at the work of R. W. Seton-Watson, a British historian who was hostile to the empire (as a "prison of the peoples") and celebrated its breakup. His sons (also both historians) wrote a book about it.
posted by dhens at 5:37 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry, here's the correct link for Thunder at Twilight.
posted by scody at 5:48 PM on November 27, 2012

If you have a library handy, the first chapter of Hew Strachen's The First World War has a brisk review of the events leading to the war and some good comments on the historiography. The disposition of the Empire is covered in Margret MacMilian's engrossing survey Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World
posted by shothotbot at 7:20 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not a huge fan of A Nervous Splendor, just because of what seems to me to be an over-the-top breathlessly dramatic tone -- but many, many others like it, so YMMV. I would. however, like to put in a word for Carl Schorske's Pulitzer-prize-winning Fin-de-siècle Vienna. It's a cultural history, not a military-social work, but it's incredibly well-written and, if you have any interest in the birth of Modernism out of the chaos of the dying Austro-Hungarian empire, it's fascinating as hell.
posted by ariel_caliban at 12:18 PM on November 28, 2012

Definitely seconding the Schorske recommendation -- it's great. If you enjoy it, two good companion books are Janik's Wittgenstein's Vienna and Johnston's The Austrian Mind. There's also Rethinking Vienna 1900, which is a more recent re-reading of a number of Schorske's main themes in light of new scholarship, etc.
posted by scody at 1:53 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

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