Meaning Well

Maximilian II managed to be both ahead of his time and behind it simultaneously. His life warns us against allowing ourselves to fall into a similar predicament.

Issue: Winter 2001-2002

Paula Sutter Fichtner, Emperor Maximilian II (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 368 pp., $35.

"In other countries dynasties are episodes in the history of the people; in the Habsburg Empire peoples are complications in the history of the dynasty", epigrammatically wrote A.J.P. Taylor in 1948 in The Habsburg Monarchy. It is notable that in 2001, at a time when the royal biography is not an especially favored genre of professional historians, the Habsburgs can still be approached through that old-fashioned form of historical narrative, which is what Paula Sutter Fichtner has done in writing Emperor Maximilian II. Her portrait of Maximilian offers important insights into pressing 16th century problems that are full of modern relevance, especially the frustrating enterprise of consolidating and sustaining an ethnically and religiously pluralist state.

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