Germany and the Holy Roman Empire offers a striking new interpretation of a crucial era in German and European history, from the great reforms of 1495-1500 to the dissolution of the Reich in 1806. Over two volumes, Joachim Whaley rejects the notion that this was a long period of decline, and shows instead how imperial institutions developed in response to the crises of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, notably the Reformation and Thirty Years War. The impact of international developments on the Reich is also examined.
Volume II begins with the Peace of Westphalia and concludes with the dissolution of the Reich. Whaley analyses the remarkable resurgence of the Reich after the Thirty Years War, which saw the Habsburg emperors achieve a new position of power and influence and which enabled the Reich to withstand the military threats posed by France and the Turks in the later seventeenth century. He gives a rich account of topics such as Pietism and baroque Catholicism, the German enlightenment, and the impact on the Empire and its territories of the French Revolution and Napolean. Whaley emphasizes the continuing viability of the Reich's institutions to the end, and the vitality of a political culture of freedom that has been routinely underestimated by historians of modern Germany.