An Economist and Sunday Times Best Book of the Year
“Deserves to be hailed as a magnum opus.”
—Tom Holland, The Telegraph
“Ambitious…seeks to rehabilitate the Holy Roman Empire’s reputation by re-examining its place within the larger sweep of European history…Succeeds splendidly in rescuing the empire from its critics.”
—Wall Street Journal
Massive, ancient, and powerful, the Holy Roman Empire formed the heart of Europe from its founding by Charlemagne to its destruction by Napoleon a millennium later. An engine for inventions and ideas, with no fixed capital and no common language or culture, it derived its legitimacy from the ideal of a unified Christian civilization—though this did not prevent emperors from clashing with the pope for supremacy.
In this strikingly ambitious book, Peter H. Wilson explains how the Holy Roman Empire worked, why it was so important, and how it changed over the course of its existence. The result is a tour de force that raises countless questions about the nature of political and military power and the legacy of its offspring, from Nazi Germany to the European Union.
“Engrossing…Wilson is to be congratulated on writing the only English-language work that deals with the empire from start to finish…A book that is relevant to our own times.”
—Brendan Simms, The Times
“The culmination of a lifetime of research and thought…an astonishing scholarly achievement.”
“Remarkable…Wilson has set himself a staggering task, but it is one at which he succeeds heroically.”
—Times Literary Supplement
If, like most people, you know little more about the Holy Roman Empire than Voltaire’s bon mot—that it ‘was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire’—then this is the book for you. In his masterly study of the original ‘1,000-year Reich’ (Hitler’s was merely a grotesque caricature), the Oxford professor Peter H. Wilson condenses a great deal of modern scholarship while wearing his learning lightly… Wilson’s account is distinctive in treating the empire neither as a sequence of obstacles on the path to national self-determination, nor as a blueprint for the European Union. Instead, he seeks to understand how and why it worked.
Hugely impressive… Wilson is an assured guide through the millennium-long labyrinth of papal–imperial relations.
Superb… Wilson attempts something very ambitious—to treat the history by categories… Wilson’s history represents the culmination of a lifetime of research and thought, and in its scope and depth of detail is an astonishing scholarly achievement. The author moves from the grand themes to detail with felicity…Wilson uses a relaxed and easy prose, turning antiquated and odd pieces of evidence or description into approachable and comprehensible explanations… [What] pleasure that a massive work of scholarship like Wilson’s can give the conscientious reader… This book [is] a very stimulating read.
Engrossing… Even those who know the empire well will read this book with profit… Peter Wilson is to be congratulated on writing the only English-language work that deals with the empire from start to finish and on the basis of staggering erudition.
Wilson has given [the Holy Roman Empire] its longest and most readable one-volume history in the modern era.
An ambitious, sprawling tome that seeks to rehabilitate the Holy Roman Empire's reputation by re-examining its place within the larger sweep of European history…Heart of Europe succeeds splendidly in rescuing the empire from its critics.
In his remarkable book, Wilson argues that a broad and deep perspective on the old Reich—broader and deeper than those available to either Charles IV or Goethe—discloses a fundamentally positive vision of that much-maligned institution. Wilson has set himself a staggering task, but it is one at which he succeeds heroically. Over the course of nearly a thousand pages, Wilson recounts with unflagging lucidity the history of an empire spanning continental Europe from the North Sea to the Vistula and from the Baltic to southern Italy, which endured for more than a millennium, between Charlemagne and Napoleon. Wilson does more. He tracks the medieval Empire back to its ancient roots, and he excavates its subterranean modern afterlife. His book amounts to a panoramic vision of pre-modern Europe, expanding outward from the vast and varied landscapes of the Reich…Despite its vast sweep, this is remarkably fine-grained history.
Distils in over a thousand pages the millennium from Charlemagne to Napoleon. It is indispensable to any serious library.
An impressive and inspiring magnum opus that tells the history of the Holy Roman Empire from its medieval beginnings to its end in the nineteenth century…Wilson gives an overview on the history of its perception in the following centuries and its role in modern political debates. What is even more impressive is Wilson’s approach to the book’s structure: instead of telling the empire’s history chronologically, he chooses an analytical outline. In this way, he points out connections as well as breaks between the medieval and the early modern empire…[A] tour de force.
- 1008 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
From this author
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