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83 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly accessible retelling of a clash of civilisations
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...
Published on 27 Mar 2009 by J. Duducu

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3.0 out of 5 stars Useful to English readers but needs developing
Wheatcroft tells a story little written about by English speaking historians - the attempts by the Ottoman Turks to capture Vienna in the 16th and 17th centuries. The focus here is on the campaign which came closest to success, that of 1683. The most useful part of the work is in placing this attack in the context of Turkish advance westwards since the 15th century and...
Published 2 months ago by Les Fearns


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83 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly accessible retelling of a clash of civilisations, 27 Mar 2009
By 
J. Duducu (Ruislip) - See all my reviews
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting tale - little covered by other books, 12 July 2009
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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
By 
MLA (Leyton, London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe (Paperback)
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. What is a little less clear is why the Duke of Lorraine spent so little of the action actually at Vienna, instead Wheatcroft provides evidence of his presence only occasionally during the most critical days of the siege.

The two shock troops of the Ottomans are given especial detail - the Tartars and the Janissaries. Wheatcroft's suggestion that fear of the Turk in western thought is in fact based on fear of the Tartar is backed by ample evidence. The Tartar way of fighting was so far removed from the ceremonial chivalry of Europe as to make these an alien people. In pitched battle there were never enough Tartars but as scouts and raiders Wheatcroft effectively evokes the fear they must have created. The Janissaries are a little less easy to understand from Wheatcroft's narrative but their role as elite troops with a command of technology is clear throughout. The armies of the near east that have threatened Europe for millenia have always been some combination of skills and Wheatcroft's description of what this meant in practice and how the different peoples were tied together is impressive. The cultural implications of the Ottoman style of government are brought to life and they are not just an amorphous mass of enemy.

The Habsburgs and the intricacies of the Holy Roman Empire are left a little to the reader's imagination and in such a large work inevitably some features had to be missed out. What is missing is detail on the debate and diplomacy between the Germanic States and also with the Pope. Innocent XI is a bit of a bystander in the narrative with the reference to the Papacy being only of the vast transfers of cash the Pope made to support the defence of Christendom.

The narrative of the siege itself is absolutely breathtaking stuff. The battle descriptions are gripping and it is exciting to read each phase as the Ottomans gradually pushed through the defences. The graphic descriptions add to the allure of what was clearly a bitterly fought battle. It was a turning point and both sides clearly understood the importance. Wheatcroft describes a couple of missed opportunities by the Ottomans and lays the blame fairly on Kara Mustafa. Mustafa may not have been a military genius but he was not far from taking the greatest city of Eastern Europe when he was ultimately defeated with the arrival of John Sobieski, King of Poland.

It may have been interesting to read of the aftermath for Vienna but Wheatcroft chooses to go with the bigger picture. The continuing rivalry between Habsburg and Ottoman fills the final chapter as the two continue to battle one another back through south east Europe in a fight that only really ends with the dissolution of both Empires in 1918.

Enemy at the Gate is a great description of the events of 1683 and of the later implications. The battle scenes are terrific and even the preparations for war conjure an epic picture. Wheatcroft's own analysis in the coda leaves a little to be desired as he seeks to address what he clearly sees as a popular misconception of the Turkic peoples by the West. The coda does not really follow from what has gone before and does not really add anything to the debate. Coda aside though, Enemy at the Gate is a terrific read for anyone especially those with an interest in the subject as a potent reminder of the turning point that happened at Vienna during some bloody days in the summer of 1683.
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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 (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe (Paperback)
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. An all-day battle of European coalition forces put together by allies of the Habsburgs routed the Ottoman forces and sent them back down the Danube to their own area. Another battle was won at Buda, returning that city to the Habsburg fold. Wheatcroft's writing of the Siege of Vienna and the battle and the forces put together was the best part of the book. He writes well about battle and diplomacy; particularly the latter was important in getting such various figures as the (elected) King of Poland and various German princes together to fight the Turks. For the serious amateur history reader, Andrew Wheatcroft's book is a valuable addition to their library.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb account of a key siege in Western & Eastern history, 5 Dec 2009
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe (Paperback)
As I'm writing this the end of 2009 is approaching, and looking back upon the (many) history books I've read this year, this one ranks among the best. Not a few of those history books dealt with diverse aspects and periods of what I'd loosely describe as 'the East' (Judith Herrin's 'Byzantium', Roger Crowley's 'Constantinople, the last great siege' and 'Empires of the sea', Jason Goodwin's 'Lords of the Horizons', all of them fine books), and they have only increased my interest in the subject.

Wheatcroft's subject is the siege of Vienna in 1683 by the troops of Sultan Mehmed IV under the command of his Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa, a pivotal event in the struggle between the Habsburg (Austrian) empire and the Ottoman empire (a struggle that went on for centuries), and Wheatcroft writes this account not only with a thorough knowledge of the subject but - as importantly perhaps - with great enthusiasm. His own interest in the subject, one might safely even speak of fascination, is evident on every page and like a virus affects the reader.

The story of the siege in itself is truly absorbing stuff, but what lifts this book above the level of a 'mere account' ('first this happened and then that happened') are the clear insights Wheatcroft gives in the machinations and mechanisms behind the siege, and the way in which he treats it not just as a major confrontation isolated in time but situated in a long chain of events building up to that particular year, and reverberating for decades afterwards. In doing so, he also dispels many myths and prejudices (such as 'the evil Turk') that even today are still current. Therein, for me, lies the great value of this book because the past always begets the present, and the better we understand the past the better we are equipped to deal with today's challenges.

In a word: a masterpiece!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Readable, not enough maps, 24 Mar 2010
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This review is from: The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book, which focuses (reasonably enough in my view) on the Vienna siege of 1683 rather than Islam vs Christianity in general. There is interesting background about both Ottoman and Habsburg rulers, though it's not a social history so no anecdotes about what it was like to work in the Sultan's laundry. After a gripping description of the siege itself the last quarter of the book takes a whistlestop tour of the subsequent decline of the two empires right up to the outbreak of WW1. This section felt like a bit of an afterthought, though it does shed light on more recent Balkan conflicts.

My only complaint is the lack of good maps and idiosyncratic choice of largely 19th Century paintings, reproduced in black and white, as illustrations. Since so much of the book revolves around events in Edirne, Graz and others, it would be nice to know where they were, while a large scale map of Vienna and its fortifications would seem essential to follow what's going on. (I eventually found and printed one on the internet).

Definitely worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read, informative, 17 Oct 2014
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red0209 (Newcastle, UK) - See all my reviews
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I have found myself in the past year or two trying to greater understand the origins of the First World War (or Great War if you prefer) by reading backwards chronologically from 1918, particularly in relation to Central Europe. The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe has a comprehensive introduction and background to the central event covered in the book, the Ottoman Siege of Vienna in 1683. The book covers the siege itself in great detail without being laborious. The aftermath, both the battles fought immediately after 1683, and the consequences leading right up to 1918 are summarised extremely well by Andrew Wheatcroft. Further reading is required, but the path from the Habsburgs and Ottomans being the bitterest of enemies in 1683 to unlikely allies in the First World War is well documented. Unlike some other authors, you don't get the feeling that Andrew Wheatcroft is eager to impose his own personal opinion on the reader, other than perhaps in the final few pages, which is refreshing. I had little knowledge of the Habsburgs prior to 1809, having read The Habsburg Monarchy 1809-1918: A History of the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary but little else about this part of Europe prior to the First World War. This wasn't a hindrance at all as this book didn't assume or require any prior knowledge of the period in order to understand it.

One slight annoyance for me concerned the layout of the book. There are notes on the text in the back of the book, as many as 52 per chapter. More than half of these are simple references to books or specific pages/passages within books that you probably do not have to hand. You can't just disregard the notes though as some are more than just a simple reference, and place into context parts of the main text. These could have been included within the main text to avoid having to constantly refer to the notes at the back of the book.

As an introduction to this particular period of history, this book does an excellent job and I would certainly recommend it. If you're looking for a detailed political, social, religious or military history of the period, you will need to look elsewhere.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Enemy at the Gate, 2 Aug 2009
I really enjoyed this book. It is easy to read and is at an easy pace. It is well researched and explains the issues. It's focus remains on the subject matter and does not wander needlessly. The book is however Western Euro centric and it rarely gives the Ottoman perspective around the reasons for the military operations it carried out. This aside I highly recommend this gripping readThe Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe
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3.0 out of 5 stars Useful to English readers but needs developing, 5 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe (Paperback)
Wheatcroft tells a story little written about by English speaking historians - the attempts by the Ottoman Turks to capture Vienna in the 16th and 17th centuries. The focus here is on the campaign which came closest to success, that of 1683. The most useful part of the work is in placing this attack in the context of Turkish advance westwards since the 15th century and in showing the reader new to the topic just how extensive this was. The duration of the Turkish presence in much of Hungary until the 18th century and the Hapsburg wars against the Turks which lasted until the end of that century were a surprise to me.

The 1683 siege is covered in much detail although as mentioned before in other reviews the quality of the maps in this ebook was poor and place names almost totally unreadable (when will publishers do something about this? Some now recognise the problem but their solution is to publish without any maps at all...) which made it difficult to always follow the progress of both the initial Turkish march on the capital and then the military configuration of those armies lifting the siege. However the detail of the narrative is clear.

Unfortunately, the focus tends to fade once the siege is lifted and the narrative becomes an outline of future campaigns and battles which I found somehow lacking in substance and unsatisfying. Part Three is more an essay on the nature of Austria's "Age of Heroes" (Heldenzeitalter) which followed the final succession of victories against the Ottomans. These included the hero of 1683, Charles of Lorraine, and Prince Eugene of Savoy the 18th century leader and enabled Vienna to construct a fantasy of military heroism and prowess that would last well into the 19th century (and even contribute to the hubris of 1914) and long after any repetition of victorious military campaigns was possible within the Empire. The Austrian historian Michael Hochedlinger is quoted as describing this ‘belated great power’, as having a ‘splendid baroque surface, it perhaps had more of a trompe l’oeil and resembled a colossus on feet of clay, whose fate was always hanging by a thread’. The connections with 1683 are made but at times this final section feels more like an afterthought.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enemy at the gate, 23 April 2010
By 
J. L. Stewart (Hull. U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe (Paperback)
There is only a little that i want to add to the other reviews.
Certainly the book takes a little while to get into.
I wholeheartedly agree that the maps, therein are totally inadequate and in no way enhance the reading of the book.
There is no explanation of the living conditions after the siege was ended and how and if people returned to the city or left the city to get back to the outlying villages.What about burials? and any organised attempts at restoring order and normality in Vienna?
However I did enjoy the historical overview at the end of the book leading to the outbreak of the First World War.
Finally, I wonder whether the author was deliberately allowing us to draw our own conclusions on why in the aftermath, the Hapsburg Empire was obsessively keen on building bulwarks to guard against Ottoman aggression, whilst leaving the real threat from the West fatally comprimised ?
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The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe
The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe by Andrew Wheatcroft (Paperback - 6 Aug 2009)
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