Customer Review

85 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly accessible retelling of a clash of civilisations, 27 Mar. 2009
This review is from: The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe (Hardcover)
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.

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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Jan 2015 10:35:30 GMT
Neil Lennon says:
You say there is no bias but to me there is a clear bias in favour of the Ottoman's. The first half of the book is spent waxing poetic about how wonderful the Ottoman army looked and how the Ottoman Turks were such a great people with barely a mention of the Habsburgs. For a nation built on militarism, religious intolerance and empire building this seems a somewhat fanciful view of the Turks. Numerous atrocities were committed by both sides in these wars but the Ottoman Turks were capable of extreme cruelty - slaughtering and impaling prisoners, enslaving Christians to man galleys or forcibly converting them to Islam. The Ottoman's rulers were particularly tyrannical with anyone displeasing them being tortured and executed, and rivals to the throne being systematically killed off as children. Overlooking all this in favour of an idealised Ottoman rule is biased and an unbalanced reporting of history.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Jan 2015 12:05:23 GMT
J. Duducu says:
Well I do not deny any of the points that you've made did happen under Ottoman rule, you make it sound like it was commonplace and that is not correct. There is plenty of evidence to show that the Ottomans were far more tolerant of other religions (particularly Jews) than anything in the west.
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Location: Ruislip

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