In the generation preceding the rise of the Reformation, the Magyar and Bohemian kingdoms underwent an internal decay that finally, in 1526, led to their incorporation with the empire of the Habsburgs, while Poland, although far from being sound or strongly organised, continued to maintain her imposing position against Turks and Tartars on the one hand, and Muscovites and Germans on the other. The decay of Hungary and Bohemia was unexpected and has always offered one of the most perplexing problems of modern history. About the middle, and still more during the sixth and seventh decades of the fifteenth century, both kingdoms seemed firmly established, the one (Hungary) in the immense basin of the middle Danube; the other (Bohemia, together with Moravia and Silesia) on the vast plateau of the great watershed of central Europe. Their rulers had real international importance; their armies were numerous and well disciplined; and their administration and revenues furnished them with ample means for making war or securing peace. Yet within a comparatively short period the prospects of the two kingdoms were blighted, their independence as national States was lost, and both were made to swell the rising imperial power of a dynasty that, a few years previously, had seemed to have lost the last vestige of its pretensions to greatness, and that had moreover repeatedly been worsted in the field and in diplomacy by both Bohemia and Hungary.
The power of the Habsburgs during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is intimately connected with, and conditioned by, their acquisition of the Crowns of Bohemia and Hungary in 1526; and, since that central fact of Austrian history has at the same time also told on most of the international currents of European history, its cause, that is to say the decay of Hungary and Bohemia during the last years of the fifteenth and the first twenty-six years of the sixteenth century, must necessarily be viewed as possessing a more than local or temporary importance. A glance at the map of Europe in the period just indicated will suffice to show that there were, in central and east-central