Book Review: The Holy Roman Empire, 1495-1806: A European Perspective


by R.J.W. Evans & Peter H. Wilson, editors

Leiden/Boston: E. J. Brill, 2012. Pp. xiv, 414. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $196.00 . ISBN: 9004206833

A revisionist look at the much maligned Holy Roman Empire.

Eternally damned by Voltaire’s pithy put down about it being “Neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire,” the HRE was, in fact, a potent force in European diplomatic and military life virtually until its dissolution.  British academics Evans (Oxford) and Wilson (Hull) have collected nearly a score of essays by various specialists that explore the role of the Empire in the European state system.

The essays cover a variety of subjects, from the complex nature of the relations between the Empire’s member states and the Empire as an entity, the complex influence of family connections among the rulers of the many states and the bureaucratic classes, and the various systems of governance, from kingdoms to free cities to imperial knights, and more.  There are essays devoted to particular member states or associated states of the empire (Prussia, Savoy, the Netherlands, etc.) and several addressing military and diplomatic relations with some adjacent countries or regions.  A number of essays look at the Empire’s cultural influence and its role in shaping the concept of “Germany.” 

Although more could have been said about imperial military institutions, given that the HRE had an important military role in European conflicts through the Seven Years’ War, this book will make rewarding reading for anyone interested in European life and history from the Renaissance through the Revolutionary era. 


Note: The Holy Roman Empire, 1495-1806 is also available as an e-book 978-9-004-22872-6

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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