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Publisher's Summary

The Holy Roman Empire lasted 1,000 years, far longer than ancient Rome. Yet this formidable dominion never inspired the awe of its predecessor. Voltaire quipped that it was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire. Yet as Peter H. Wilson shows, the Holy Roman Empire tells a millennial story of Europe better than the histories of individual nation-states.

Heart of Europe traces the empire from its origins within Charlemagne's kingdom in 800 to its demise in 1806. By the mid-tenth century, its core rested in the German kingdom, and ultimately its territory stretched from France and Denmark to Italy and Poland. Yet the empire remained abstract, with no fixed capital and no common language or culture. The source of its continuity and legitimacy was the ideal of a unified Christian civilization, but this did not prevent emperors from clashing with the pope over supremacy. Though the title of Holy Roman Emperor retained prestige, rising states such as Austria and Prussia wielded power in a way the empire could not. While it gradually lost the flexibility to cope with political, economic, and social changes, the empire was far from being in crisis until the onslaught of the French revolutionary wars.

©2016 Peter H. Wilson (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Hugely impressive...Wilson is an assured guide through the millennium-long labyrinth of papal - imperial relations." ( Literary Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Mixed feelings on this one.

I enjoy the material, and the work is solid overall. But there are occasional lazy swipes at parallel history that undermined my confidence in the scholarship. One specific example, his brief discussion of Empress Matilda of England massively oversimplifies the facts and the context of her conflict with Stephen of Blois, saying effectively "Matilda defeated her enemies in England" - which just isn't the case. Matilda's son eventually fought to a negotiated conclusion of this early English civil war, but her enemies were not "defeated" and to the extent that they were, she had already left.

Not to go over-granular, but this is one example of several where things happening on the margins of the HRE are reduced in ways that distort the relevant history.

I also didn't love the narration, but that's often a matter of taste.

31 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Non-Linear, Dry

What disappointed you about Heart of Europe?

I normally like dry history books but I found it very difficult to get into this one. Rather than tell the story of the Holy Roman Empire from start to finish as would have made sense to me it constantly jumps around, talking about events in the 9th century and events in the 14th century in the same paragraph throughout the book. Sorry you lost me. Would have liked to hear more about the characters and their lives.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant Work

The subject area is so broad a shelf full of books would hardly be adequate but if YOU are truly interested in a deep understanding of the HRE then and now what you are seeking is within this work and other very interested directions are pointed out. If you are more the trivial sniveler type this may not be for you. You have to be interested and YOU have to be able to think- verbalized emotions are not thoughts.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Decent book, Narrator Easy to Tune Out

This book is not as bad as some of the other reviewers are saying. Because of the range of time and distance that this book challenges itself to cover, if it were laid out in a straightforward, chronological manner, it would be thousands of pages loner and likely a snooze fest. The author actually does a good job with the performance, and I never though he sounded monotone or uninspired. However, something in the timbre of his voice lends itself to tuning it out. I would frequently find myself having missed a few lines of text when listening in the car simply because his voice just blends in with the background noise of the world. I don’t think it is his fault or that there is anything wrong with the performance. Worth a listen for those interested in the HRE, but do not expect to walk away having memorized each line of Kings and all major historical events. The format of this book simply does not make any one person or event particularly memorable. You simply walk away with a sense of understanding about why the HRE existed, the space and time period it occupied, and the factors that led to its demise.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A Great Work

A very detailed and informative volume on many facets of an immense subject. It is not a linear narrative but more of a series of analyses ranging from daily life, law and order, governance, etc. that jump from century to century. The author was very thourough and tried to convey a objective light on what has and continues to be a nationalistic topic.

I would highly recommend this book to any lover of European history.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Dan B.
  • Newburyport, MA, United States
  • 11-29-17

Interesting Period of History Ruined by Narration

I was really looking forward to listening to this book until I started it. I hate to say it, but the narration is simply awful. I had to stop midway through and will be getting the print version.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Not engaging

This is one of the driest and most tedious books I listened to. I personally did not like the narrator either. Worse than any textbook I ever had the displeasure of plowing through. Just fact after fact, no dimension. I only got through 20%.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

lack of narrative

while comprehensive, the story jumps Back and forth in time so much that you never had any idea what was going on. We jump from the time of Charlemagne to the 1800s with barely a pause. it would follow one topic, such as taxes, for hundreds of years, which made that topic very well studied, but gave you no sense of the Empire as a whole. It also prevented you from getting any feel of the Empire at any one time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Well written & read,, if a touch on the dry side.

Enjoyed it, but am stunned that Prince Eugene of Savoy didn't receive a single mention.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

info dump

What disappointed you about Heart of Europe?

Just unloads information on you and expects you to remember which Otto or Henry is which when they are mentioned again an hour later without any reference points.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

dissappointment

7 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Andrew
  • 09-28-17

Rather plain, not going to win any converts.

This is a book written in a moderately academic manner. Not terrible, but certainly not a populist style.
The reader, although clear , does not show any warmth for the subject, and it is presented in a faintly pleasant but emotionless tone. Its not a monotone by by means, but all the facts are presented without any real emphasis.

The result is a fairly characterless listen that while not awful is rather plain. If you are specifically in need of something that covers this exact subject for a professional or academic study, you will find it useful and it certainly could be worse.

However, if you have a more general interest in either historical audiobooks or just audiobooks in general , there are large numbers of such out there that are considerably better and I would recommend trying any number of those over this.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Thomas
  • 02-05-18

Probably better to read than to listen

Really fascinating and well narrated audiobook, lots of well researched information with well balanced interpretations and conclusions. However I would prefer to have read it physically I think. Because of how hard it is to flick back and forth, I find more linear history audiobooks easier to listen to, whereas this one was arranged by themes, and timelines were hard to follow at times. Still, a good book overall, well worth investing some hours into!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • John Thomas
  • 03-19-18

A comprehensive history of the HRE.

What three words best describe Napoleon Ryan’s performance?

I have no idea why the narrator insists on pronouncing some words very rapidly in a mock German accent, as if he is a cartoon general. It's really frustrating when these are titles of characters and institutions as it makes it hard to understand some fairly complex German.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Sam
  • 08-15-18

Great history, dire narration

This is a detailed and compelling history of the Holy Roman Empire, ruined by truly terrible narration. It's so bad it would be funny, except you've spent money on a performance that would shame a 12 year old's drama recital. Do yourself and favour and buy the actual book - you just can't get into it otherwise

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Kamtar
  • 04-18-18

Bad narator and not really suited for audiobook

Any additional comments?

Two problems:
- Narator sounds artificial like from an action movie trailer.
- Lots of jumping between names and one period to another, it's hard to keep track if you are not closely familiar with history of HRE.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-27-17

confusing!

very detailed but presents a confusing picture of empire. not helped by poor and over dramatic reading.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jack Fleming
  • 12-07-17

Deep dive into The Holy Roman Empire

Very enjoyable linkage of the history of the church and empire at start. Given the vast expanse of the history of the emperor it has a number of interesting interactions with the history of the reformation, the conceptualisation of imperialism and the French revolution. Overall does much to counter the narrative of the Empire being an institution that long outlasted it's usefulness. The 20th century historical interprations have come at the Empire with a nationalist focus or a nation state interpretation nor a progressive constitutional center of reform. well worth a read I certainly walked away knowing far more and being far more interested in the subject matter overall

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Daniel
  • 11-29-17

Absolutely disjointed, pointless, mind-numbing

Dull and mostly irrelevant jumpings from this to that with no congruence

Not even interesting. Droning narrator doesn't help much either.

I cannot go on I must return this title and get Durant or something instead.

Disappointing