This second and final volume of Derek Beales's magisterial biography of the emperor Joseph II describes the period when he was sole ruler of the Austrian monarchy.
Influenced partly by Enlightenment ideals, Joseph relaxed censorship, introduced wide-ranging religious toleration and fostered a 'new Catholicism' whilst Mozart's music, the greatest cultural achievement of his reign, owed much to Joseph's patronage.
He also abolished personal serfdom and diminished the nobles' power, seeking to achieve full personal control over all his provinces.
Opposition became serious when his hyperactive foreign policy landed him in war against the Turks, and he died with his Belgian provinces in rebel hands and Hungary threatened by revolt and invasion.
Though these pressures forced Joseph to withdraw some of his measures, Derek Beales argues that he left an indelible mark on the history of all his lands, which now form part of fifteen modern states.