The Habsburg Empire: A Very Short Introduction (2017) by Martyn Rady is a book that describes the main history of one of Europe’s most important dynasties. Rady is a professor of European Studies at University College London and got his PhD in Budapest so he has a great background for writing a book on the Habsburgs.
There are a number of much longer and larger books on the Habsburgs out there. But for anyone wanting to come up to speed and get some idea of why the Habsburgs mattered so much and how the empire they ruled over worked at various times this book is ideal.
It covers the period when Phillip the Fair ruled Spain and much of the new world and The Phillipines and indeed contemplated an invasion of China to expand the empire to when the empire broke apart and finally collapsed in 1918.
The Habsburgs are a fascinating dynasty, they seem to have mostly achieved what they did through clever marriages and alliances and not too much by war. They were tolerant for much of their rule and ruled over a diverse collection of peoples for a long time. While it could be argued they held Central Europe back to some degree they also tended to avoid the bloodshed that succeeded them.
The book is well written and very much worth reading for anyone interested in Central European history who doesn’t want to read huge tome where much of the starting material is forgotten by the end. It’s crisp, informative and very well done.