Emperor Ferdinand II (1619-37) stands out as a crucial figure in the Counter-Reformation in central Europe, a leading player in the Thirty Years War, the most important ruler in the consolidation of the Habsburg monarchy, and the emperor who reinvigorated the office after its decline under his two predecessors. This is the first biography since a long-outdated one written in German in 1978, and the first ever in English. It looks at his reign as territorial ruler of Inner Austria from 1598 until his election as emperor and especially at the influence of his mother, the formidable Archduchess Maria, in order to understand his later policies as emperor. This book focuses on the consistency of his policies and the profound influence of religion throughout his career, and follows the contest at court between those who favored consolidation of the Habsburg lands and those who aimed for expansion in the empire.
Robert Bireley is Professor of History Emeritus at Loyola University, Chicago. He has served as president of the American Catholic Historical Association and on the editorial boards of the Catholic Historical Review and the Renaissance Quarterly. Bireley has been a prolific author in the field of European religious history, with a special interest in the Reformation, Roman Catholicism, and Jesuit history. His books include Politics and Religion in the Age of the Counterreformation: Emperor Ferdinand II, William Lamormaini, S. J., and the Formation of Imperial Policy (1981); The Refashioning of Catholicism, 1450-1700: A Reassessment of the Counterreformation (1999); and The Jesuits and the Thirty Years War: Kings, Courts, and Confessors (Cambridge, 2003). He is the recipient of numerous prestigious fellowships, including fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.