This book examines politics in the free cities of South Germany during the era of the Protestant Reformation, an age of German national awakening. The author's main theme is why Germany, unlike the other large European countries, failed to create a centralised dynastic monarchy during the sixteenth century. Two possible paths of political development faced the oligarchical governments of the autonomous towns: either they could support a strong monarchy based on a partnership between Austria and the free cities under Habsburg leadership, or they could try to form federations of self-governing cities with peasant leagues along Swiss lines. Fear of how a wave of liberation might affect the peasantry, and their own lower classes, inclined the oligarchies away from the 'Swiss way', but the Reformation and the distraction by wars and by other imperial concerns of Emperor Charles V and his brother, Archduke Ferdinand, prevented a partnership developing between the cities and the monarchy. In the end, the region went the 'German way' - of aristocratic particularism that dominated the Germanspeaking world until 1871.
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