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The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe [Paperback]

Andrew Wheatcroft
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Aug 2009

In 1683, two empires - the Ottoman, based in Constantinople, and the Habsburg dynasty in Vienna - came face to face in the culmination of a 250-year power struggle: the Great Siege of Vienna.

Within the city walls the choice of resistance over surrender to the largest army ever assembled by the Turks created an all-or-nothing scenario: every last survivor would be enslaved or ruthlessly slaughtered. The Turks had set their sights on taking Vienna, the city they had long called 'The Golden Apple' since their first siege of the city in 1529. Both sides remained resolute, sustained by hatred of their age-old enemy, certain that their victory would be won by the grace of God.

Eastern invaders had always threatened the West: Huns, Mongols, Goths, Visigoths, Vandals and many others. The Western fears of the East were vivid and powerful and, in their new eyes, the Turks always appeared the sole aggressors. Andrew Wheatcroft's extraordinary book shows that this belief is a grievous oversimplification: during the 400 year struggle for domination, the West took the offensive just as often as the East.

As modern Turkey seeks to re-orient its relationship with Europe, a new generation of politicians is exploiting the residual fears and tensions between East and West to hamper this change. The Enemy at the Gate provides a timely and masterful account of this most complex and epic of conflicts.

Frequently Bought Together

The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe + Constantinople: The Last Great Siege, 1453 + Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521-1580
Price For All Three: 28.27

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico (6 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844137414
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844137411
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 220,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Impressively researched... he has a forensic grasp of the terrain and the tactics, produces excellent miniatures of the frontline generals and deploys extraordinary eyewitness accounts with great skill... Wheatcroft has done us all a service by bringing another part of the story of Ottoman-European interaction to the attention of English-speaking readers" (Literary Review)

"The book gives a fine account of the siege itself... thoughtful and thought-provoking, as well as being a cracking good story" (Sunday Telegraph)

"It is tremendous stuff, a masterpiece of historical writing" (Daily Telegraph)

"Wheatcroft captures the sweep of great events in this riveting book. He also nails historical myths that still resonate to this day" (Simon Shaw Daily Mail)

"Well-balanced, readable and timely account of the 1683 siege" (Jay Dixon Historical Novels Review)


A thoughtful and thought-provoking book, as well as being a crackingly good story. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
83 of 86 people found the following review helpful
The problem with non-fiction is that certain areas of history are covered over and over again. Want to know about Hitler- take your pick. The Romans- how many books do you want? The issue is that where there is feast in certain areas there is famine in others. This book is one of those marvels that tells the story of an area of history largely forgotten. What Andrew Wheatcroft does is explain that this period in Eastern Europe really was an epic clash of civilisations that has affected all the countries and cultures from Austria to Iraq.

The book goes a long way to fill in the gaps about the Ottomans after the golden era of Mehmet the conqueror and Suleiman the magnificent and before the other area discussed in many books- the fall of the empire and World War 1. Enemy at the Gates mainly focuses on Mehmet IV and the second siege of Vienna. While this is the core of the book many other areas are discussed, and really focuses on the 17th and 18th century battle between the mightiest Empire in Europe and the largest in the Middle East.

Most importantly there is no bias, indeed Andrew Wheatcroft spends a lot of time countering the many incorrect and snobbish views of European chroniclers and historians that have built up over the centuries. He does a compelling job of showing that Ottoman decline was not down to decadence and the empire wasn't only backward looking either.

So what you have here is a very well written book, crammed full of fascinating characters (on both sides) all told in an easily digestible way. This is a well researched and first class example of how to draw in a reader on a topic that isn't that well known.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
By ChrisN
The central part of the book covers the last Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683 very well. The first part of the book sets the scene but could have done with tighter editing. There is some repetition and the author's chronology of events switches back and forth somewhat confusingly over the preceding century and a half since the first siege. The final part of the book attempts to show the aftermath of the events and the effect on Hapsburg-Ottoman relations. This latter part seems a bit truncated as if the author was given too little room to properly round things off. However a good solid work covering an event important to Eastern and Middle European history but little known to most British readers. Four stars.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting Coverage Of An Historical Turning Point 29 May 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Enemy at the Gate is a narrative history of the second siege of Vienna in 1683. The siege marked the high watermark of Ottoman expansion into Europe. The Ottoman surge had rarely been stopped and with vastly superior manpower and readiness to die for their cause, the Ottomans were often victorious. The Holy Roman Empire led by the Emperor of Austria was their main opposition. The first siege of Vienna had foundered because it was the final point of the long expansion into south east Europe by an exhausted military. The second siege was a direct fight for the capital of Catholic Europe and it is the main subject of Andrew Wheatcroft's excellent and excting analysis.

Wheatcroft takes the reader through the events leading up to the siege and the battle itself. The approach may be a little populist for some but it is a riveting read that is not far from being a top novel on the subject. The characters are fully fleshed out, especially the competing generals - Kara Mustafa and the Duke of Lorraine. Mustafa as the Grand Vizier is the starting point for the tale and the line of Viziers that he represents is established to give an understanding of why Mustafa made some of the decisions he did. Wheatcroft shows that Mustafa was extremely ambitious and had an eye on posterity in daring to challenge the Habsburgs at the very centre of their existence.

Wheatcroft's analysis of the Habsburg commanders is just as objective. The logic of the evacuation by the heirless Emperor Leopold is astutely described as at face value it appears to be cowardice but the risk to the Habsburg grand strategy was enormous.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Habsburgs vs Ottomans 28 Sep 2011
By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER
Scottish professor Andrew Wheatcroft has written a very readable and succinct history about the war between the Habsburgs and Ottoman Turks that culminated (but did not end) at the Siege and Battle of Vienna in the summer and fall of 1683, in his book, "The Enemy at the Gate". His book is a good look at both the geo-political and military issues.

The forces of Christendom and Islam had been sparring for well over 600 years by the time the Turks tried for the last time to take the walled city of Vienna in 1683. The area south and east of Vienna - Hungary and points south - had been the scene of random raids, battles between the two, wholesale slaughter of people on each side by the other side, and general sniping at each other. And just as sites in lower eastern Europe had been a battlefield for years, so had the Ottoman empire itself. From the Crusades onward, there had been bad blood between Christians and Muslims and cities and territory often changed hands in this period. The Turks had tried to capture but had been turned back from the gates of Vienna in 1529. The area slumbered for the next 150 years with minor excursions into each others' territory by both Turks and Austrians, and "tribute" was paid reluctantly by the Habsburgs to the Turks to keep the peace. Reluctantly and often late, as it were.

Then, in the early 1680's, a nationalism was fired up in the Turks and they decided to finally "take" Vienna - one of the prizes of "Christendom". Wheatcroft tells the story of the history of the enmity between two, as well as the story of the siege of Vienna the summer of 1683 and the battle to relieve the Turkish siege on September 12th.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable read that makes events clear without being simplistic
Andrew Wheatcroft's history of the Great Siege of Vienna in 1683 is a great account of one of the key moments of conflict between Christianity and Islam in Europe. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mark Pack
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable History
I really enjoyed this. It is a very readable history about a little known (in the west) conflict between Christian Europe and Muslim Ottomans. Read more
Published 4 months ago by M. D. Holley
5.0 out of 5 stars Warning: This is a very illuminating book but following up on it...
I loved this book and one of the best aspects is that Andrew Wheatcroft manages to take you into the Ottoman camps and palaces and while you are there you feel profound sympathy... Read more
Published 5 months ago by W Greenhalf
4.0 out of 5 stars The Enemy at the Gate
I Enjoyed reading this book which was full of facts. However I feel the author's opinions were a distraction from objectivity.
Published 6 months ago by Diane
4.0 out of 5 stars Short, enjoyable but left wanting more
This is a concise and enjoyable book that (notwithstanding its title) is really a history of the siege of Vienna 1683 and its immediate aftermath. It does this job well. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr. R. G. Hanna
3.0 out of 5 stars Riddled with sloppy errors
A fascinating topic, told with enthusisam. But there are some glaring errors that let it all down. On page 7, he states that Mehmed took Constantinople on May 24th 1453. Read more
Published 22 months ago by TonyS
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many flaws
This book about the siege of Vienna in 1683 and the battle for Europe is written by Andrew Wheatcroft, who is the author of several books, including The Ottomans (1993) and The... Read more
Published on 7 July 2012 by Torben Retboll
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
It is surprising to see how many critical reviews 'The Enemy at the Gate' got. Probably it attracts a highly intelligent readership with exacting standards. Read more
Published on 4 Oct 2011 by M. Baerends
3.0 out of 5 stars It ok for a thin field in this historical area
There are some good reviews here in the 3 star arena that highlight very well and in some detail the shortcomings of the book. Read more
Published on 14 Oct 2010 by Stukins
3.0 out of 5 stars Enemy at the gate
There is only a little that i want to add to the other reviews.
Certainly the book takes a little while to get into. Read more
Published on 23 April 2010 by J. L. Stewart
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