Top positive review
90 people found this helpful
A highly accessible retelling of a clash of civilisations
on 27 March 2009
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