Top Books: Austria-Hungary

Intimately tied to the Holy Roman Empire, and later Germany, the Austrian Empire grew in power and importance before Hungarian nationalism forced the creation of a dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1867; this state collapsed at the end of World War One. There is also a list of picks dedicated to the Habsburg family - the rulers of Austria/Austria-Hungary.

Not everyone likes Bryan Cartledge’s new history of Hungary’s long and complicated past, but given the many national groups involved this is inevitable. Overall it was critically acclaimed, and I rate it as a perfect starting point for readers prepared to dig in for a somewhat longer read. There’s compassion and criticism, and a lovely presentation.
 

 

This appears in my list on Habsburg books, but it’s such a fun and wide ranging journey through Austria, Hungary and related lands it has to be mentioned here. It’s not a straight history, rather a sort of supersized tour, but it’s fun and infectious. Perfect for people who don’t like traditional texts.

 

Although the first edition of this volume is now one of the many 'classic' historical texts, this revised version is the one you want. In it Sked not only examines the continued survival, and eventual collapse, of the Habsburg Empire from a European perspective, but he also explains how such ideas have changed in the aftermath of the book's original publication.

The eight essays in this book are pitched between 'history books' and specialist articles, providing a useful crossing point for the student and general reader alike. The articles examine different aspects of the decline and fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including internal factors - such as society and nationalism - and international pressures.

Austria didn’t have to become one of the ‘Great Powers’ of modern Europe, and in this study Hochedlinger doesn’t just look at the military side, but how the modern state formed and how the military was central to this
 

 

This is a fairly short, but very concise, overview of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's final half-century; it's also cheap! A range of topics are covered, including the Empire's role in World War One, and Mason avoids stereotyping the Habsburg Monarchy as archaic and doomed.

This excellent book has been highly praised, with many commentators claiming that it should become the standard English language account of Hungarian history. The cover won't attract anyone shopping for an aesthetically pleasing book, but look past that to the excellent content inside.

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A Concise History of Hungary by Miklos Molnar

The lands associated with modern Hungary may have spent recent centuries subsumed into larger empires, but a Hungarian identity can be traced back over a millennia. This excellent work by Miklos Molnar does precisely what the title claims - it provides a concise (the book is a modest 331 pages) history of Hungary, including the familiar themes of society, culture and economics.
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Hungary and the Habsburgs 1765 - 1800 by Eva H. Balazs

Although this book covers too short a period to be included any higher in this list, it's still a wholly excellent work that has received praise at the very highest levels. Balazs' text examines the state of, and relationship between, Hungary and the Austrian/Habsburg Empire during a period of intense change, whilst also challenging the views of many 'English' speaking historians.
I've always liked books that take an alternative approach to the historical monograph, and this certainly does. Rather than sum it up myself, I'd like to quote two amazom.com customers, both known simply as 'a reader': "A mesmerizing cover-to-cover experience that places the reader firmly in 19th-century Vienna" and "Part narrative, part drama/adventure, and part history lesson..."
though English speakers tend to view Germany as the major instigator of the First World War, historians are divided, and this work presents a new interpretation of the Austro-Hungarian role. Williamson has made heavy use of primary documentation (we would expect no less!), and this is a potentially thought provoking read.
This book might be a fascinating collection of essays, but it's also very specialised: the articles focus on the military events and immediate consequences of the 'Hungarian Revolution'. The volume isn't too expensive given the subject matter, but I wouldn't recommend the contents to a general reader, or anyone without an existing interest in the military events of 1848.

'How the Hungarians tried to topple their Soviet masters.' In 1956 a revolution against communist domination shook Hungary and the Eastern bloc nations, but it was repressed and the Cold War remained in the region for decades. Did it come close to success? Are there lessons to be learned? This is the book to start with.
 

 

This comparative work examines Bohemia, Poland and Hungary in the high medieval period, looking at differences, similarities and how the regions developed the way they did. It’s a specialist work, but the Cambridge Medieval Textbooks series keeps prices decent on their paperbacks.

 

People interested in Austrian history aren’t overwhelmed by good English language texts, which is why two of those on this list concern Austrian wars. But the military’s form reflected the state, and Bassett puts the role of Austria in both European history and the central region of Europe into sharp relief.