Habsburg studies stand at a crossroads. We have come a long way since C. A. Macartney published his magisterial history, The Habsburg Empire, in 1968. He began his story with the death of Joseph II in 1790—and thus, for him and his narrative, with the beginning of the end of the monarchy. Macartney's narrative represented the best and most complete traditional story of decline and fall, according to which the ever-present push of modernity put the Habsburg Monarchy in the larger story of modern Europe as an entity doomed to dissolution. Moreover, its leaders, embodied in the clever Prince Clemens von Metternich, foresaw the decline of the empire and did their best to resist change and forestall the future.
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