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Vienna, 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna Hardcover – March 11, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Leaders from the world's five major diplomatic forces—Great Britain, France, Austria, Prussia and Russia—convened in Vienna in 1814 to found a new order for post-Napoleonic Europe. Historian King (Finding Atlantis) calls it the greatest and most lavish party in history, at which delegates would plot, scheme, jockey for position, and, in short, infuriate each other as they competed in affairs of state and the heart. King covers the diplomatic wrangling well, particularly over the fates of Poland, Saxony and the Kingdom of Naples. His greater strength is in depicting the personalities and motivations of the key players, such as Metternich's daring love affair with a baroness and Czar Alexander I's growing reliance on a German mystic. Despite endless parties, the Congress achieved pioneering work in culture and human rights, including Jewish rights and a vote to abolish slavery. Most important, it established alliances that defeated Napoleon's attempt to regain power in 1815 and helped foster a spirit of cooperation that, in some ways, has still not been surpassed. King's fine work is not quite as scholarly as the book it recalls, Margaret Macmillan's Paris 1919, but it is more deftly paced and engagingly written. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Mar.)
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“King reveals his talent for narrative flow and portraiture in a biography that will thoroughly inveigle history readers.”

“A teeming…personality-rich panorama of the first truly international peace conference.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“A fascinating tale that shines light on a unique aspect of the relationship between scholarship and nationalism.”

"It would have been more fun to attend the Congress of Vienna than any other political assembly in history. Next best is to immerse yourself in David King's Vienna 1814, which reads like a novel. A fast-paced page-turner, it has everything: sex, wit, humor, and adventures. But it is an impressively-researched and important story that it tells. There was much frivolousness in the Vienna congress, but it did bring peace to Europe and shape the 19th century; and while the deliberations of the Vienna statesmen took place, the fate of the world hung in the balance."
—David Fromkin, author of Europe’s Last Summer

“Deftly paced and engagingly written.”
—Publishers Weekly

“King does a superb job of evoking the bedazzling social scene that served as the backdrop to the Congress of Vienna. This is a worthy contribution to the study of a critical historical event long neglected by historians. It should be in every European history collection.”
—Library Journal, starred review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony Books (March 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307337162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307337160
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,169,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Author David King has written a new book about a subject often dismissed as little more than the antecedent to Napoleon's 100 days campaign. Most books written on this topic were written years ago and with a predictable bent. Mr. King's book is both an objective and easily readable book on this subject. He writes in modern English and intersperses interesting historical anecdotes with the nuts-and- bolts diplomatic maneuvers of the nations through their diplomatic representatives.

On the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar, it was disappointing to find a number of the books written on that subject merely used material readily available from secondary sources. So, with regard to historical accuracy, I was impressed with Mr. King's diligence shown through the use of original source materials.

Mr. King travelled throughout Europe, and actually spoke with the librarians and archivists in the nations which participated in the Congress. His list of notes and sources is nearly 100 pages in length. This produces a picture of the Congress which is developed not just from the official records and notes of the participants, but from the equally important inhabitants of the salons and the shadows. Mr. King makes copious use of the surreptitious communication between the Duchess Sagan and Prince Metternich (discovered in 1949) and the notes of one of Metternich's assistants. Most notable however, are previously unpublished accounts of the police spy network set up by the Austrian Emperor Francis.

All of this information could make a narrative of the Congress over-laden with minutiae and prone to drone on and on with endless details of interest only to those wishing to serve in the diplomatic corps. Here, Mr.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Based on the Amazon reviews, "Vienna 1814" has raised some unexpected passions, given that it's an account of events almost two centuries past. David King has produced a solid and well written book that enlivens the story of the Congress of Vienna - and of Napoleon's hundred days - for the modern reader.

The title, homage to Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, about the Peace conference that followed the First World War, is somewhat misleading. The Congress of Vienna never officially opened; rather, the world's leading statesmen of the time - Austria's Prince Metternich, France's Charles Talleyrand, Russia's Czar Alexander and Britain's Lord Castlereigh and the Duke of Wellington, and many others - have spent the summer and autumn of 1814, and the winter and spring of 1815 in Vienna. There they have quarreled, argued and negotiated - but also danced, drank and fornicated - and shaped the future of Europe.

David King tells with equal ease both the social and the political tales of Vienna in those months. He narrates his heroes in the stateroom and in the ballroom, in love and war, in work and play. This is both an advantage and a weakness of the narrative. On the one hand, King captures the spirit of the Congress - the balls and masquerades, the splendor, the gossip - and allows the reader to feel some of what the protagonists must have felt. On the other hand, the love lives of the Rich and Famous of the 19th century are not nearly as exciting to the modern reader as they were to the contemporary observer. Did the Duchess Sagan end up in the arms of her longing prince Metternich? Do you really care?
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Format: Hardcover
The Congress of Vienna, which met to parcel up the European territories scrambled by Napoleon's conquests, didn't appear to do an awful lot of work, according to this well-written book. It wasn't called "The Dancing Congress" for nothing, because it appears that every night there was some type of festivity. Considering all of the frivolity involved, it's amazing that any real work was done, and yet the Europe that the Congress established resisted a universal war for almost the next 100 years. That in itself is a remarkable achievement! The book has a breezy style and is easy to digest. My one quibble, and the reason this review has only four stars, is the lack of maps that might have given a better perspective on why there were so many problems with national boundaries. Other than that, the book was a very informative read, and I enjoyed it very much.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I knew nothing about this history, unlike many from Vienna and Europeans who know their history. I guess it is a situation where you can't know everything!

That aside, this book is fascinating. It is a combination of a personal historical drama, war, high-stakes international relations, and culture. One might initially think that David King delves a bit too much into the sexual affairs of the senior participants, but soon one sees that this is part of the whole Congress and wheeling and dealing. In the old monarchic Europe, policy and family were intertwined in a way that we don't imagine possible today.

My main complaint is that David King is a bit negative about Napoleon in a way that I found unprofessional. Name-calling Napoleon such as tyrant and conqueror projects a one-sided view of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Credit to King for suggesting that Napoleon tried to protect Jews and end slavery (the second time around). But there was no discussion of how all of the Napoleonic wars started, and the root causes of the French Revolution. This wasn't the place for it... but for that reason the one-sided name-calling should have been avoided.

There are many ironies to note that the book highlights. First, that the slow pace of the Congress actually resulted in the "Allies" being able to defeat the returned Napoleon, as they were all in the same place at the same time. Second, that with Napoleon and France defeated, each side began to worry about one another's power - with Prussia and Russia becoming the greatest fear in an either/or assessment. When, in fact, as we know, they both became dominant powers in Europe to catastrophic result.

Really a great read altogether.

Liam H Dooley
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