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

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

3.9 19
by Andrew Wheatcroft
     
 

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In 1683, an Ottoman army that stretched from horizon to horizon set out to seize the “Golden Apple,” as Turks referred to Vienna. The ensuing siege pitted battle-hardened Janissaries wielding seventeenth-century grenades against Habsburg armies, widely feared for their savagery. The walls of Vienna bristled with guns as the besieging Ottoman host

Overview


In 1683, an Ottoman army that stretched from horizon to horizon set out to seize the “Golden Apple,” as Turks referred to Vienna. The ensuing siege pitted battle-hardened Janissaries wielding seventeenth-century grenades against Habsburg armies, widely feared for their savagery. The walls of Vienna bristled with guns as the besieging Ottoman host launched bombs, fired cannons, and showered the populace with arrows during the battle for Christianity’s bulwark. Each side was sustained by the hatred of its age-old enemy, certain that victory would be won by the grace of God.

The Great Siege of Vienna is the centerpiece for historian Andrew Wheatcroft’s richly drawn portrait of the centuries-long rivalry between the Ottoman and Habsburg empires for control of the European continent. A gripping work by a master historian, The Enemy at the Gate offers a timely examination of an epic clash of civilizations.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

New York Times Book Review
“As Andrew Wheatcroft brilliantly shows in The Enemy at the Gate, the skirmishes and the pitched battles that raged for centuries between Habsburgs and Ottomans, and their numerous vassals on both sides, represented not so much a ‘clash of civilizations’ as a collision of empires…. [H]is narrative is thrilling as well as thoughtful, a rare combination.”

Washington Times
“There are two stories here worth telling and well told: the blood-and-thunder tale of the heroic defense of Vienna against the Ottomans in 1683, the surge in morale after the Habsburg victory, and the war to recover Hungary and the Balkans from the Turks. The other story is of the obsessive fear and hatred of the Turks in Christian central Europe, exorcised by the Habsburg victory at Vienna, turning to revenge and reconquest led first by Duke Charles of Lorraine, then by the legendary Prince Eugene of Savoy, ending in exhausted and bankrupt stability.”

Telegraph
“[A] riveting narrative, Andrew Wheatcroft’s The Enemy at the Gate…tells the story of the final Habsburg-Ottoman showdown at the gates of Vienna in 1683, one of the genuine turning points in European history.”

Independent
“Andrew Wheatcroft’s The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe brilliantly reconstructs the climactic conflict between Muslim ‘East’ and Christian ‘West’, at Vienna in 1683.”

Telegraph
“A masterpiece of historical writing….The story of the siege reads as compellingly as a Dumas novel.”

Literary Review
“Intensely gripping… The Enemy at the Gate is rich and multilayered… Wheatcroft has done us all a service.”

Sunday Telegraph
“A fascinating and compelling story, a clash between a mighty besieging army and one of the major cities of Europe, involving extraordinary efforts and sacrifices on both sides.”

Financial Times
“Ambitious…Wheatcroft is undeniably expert in his field.”

Times Higher Education Supplement
“It is one of the book's strengths that it demonstrates how far Ottomans, Habsburgs and the rest of Europe lived in a common world with borders that were more porous than we usually imagine.”

The Weekly Standard
“ “[Wheatcroft’s] fourth book is primarily a military history of the clashes between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires in the 17th century, the fruit of more than 20 years researching in the field…. Some of the most suggestive material here is on military organization, equipment, and tactics.”

Victor Davis Hanson, First Things
“Wheatcroft offers a riveting account of the slow, methodical Ottoman approach to Vienna…. [A] masterful account of the siege and battle.”

Michigan War Studies Review
“Wheatcroft displays exceptional awareness of the power of the printed word not only to crystallize and reproduce specific facts or news for a mass audience, but to preserve and especially propagate a particular opinion of a given subject. Throughout, he strives to distinguish between the actual siege of Vienna in 1683 and the one preserved in the Western imagination, noting print’s power to distort and undervalue the humanity of the Ottoman Turks.”

Choice
“Wheatcroft’s real contribution is his illustration of complex Ottoman administrative and military structures. In fact, the book reveals these to have been a main source of Ottoman power; not, as many have suggested, the provocation of fear through terror or oriental savagery. Wheatcroft also adeptly addresses important historiographical questions about Ottoman decline, the dangers of over-reliance on secondary source materials, syncretism of nomadic steppe tradition with Islamic values, and fine contrasts between Ottoman and European military techniques.”

Journal of Military History
“Andrew Wheatcroft writes exciting and provocative books, and The Enemy at the Gate is no exception…. As battle history this book is great…. The descriptions of the fortifications, weapons, tactics, attacks, and counterattacks are vivid and compelling…. Even though the reader knows how the siege will turn out, he/she is eager to turn the next page to see if the next explosion and attack will enable the Turks to get into the city.”

Austrian History Yearbook
“Andrew Wheatcroft has written an engaging and thought-provoking narrative of the second Ottoman siege of Vienna…There is a lot to praise in the book, including Wheatcroft’s reconstruction of the European fear of the ‘Turks’…his vivid description of the siege and defense, and his effort to give the Ottomans their due regarding their skills and mastery in siege warfare….a good read for history buffs.”

Eric Ormsby
As Andrew Wheatcroft brilliantly shows in The Enemy at the Gate, the skirmishes and the pitched battles that raged for centuries between Habsburgs and Ottomans, and their numerous vassals on both sides, represented not so much a "clash of civilizations" as a collision of empires…Wheatcroft, the author of several earlier books on both Habsburgs and Ottomans, states that he set out here to portray the Ottoman "face of battle," borrowing a phrase from the classic work by John Keegan, and in this he succeeds; his narrative is thrilling as well as thoughtful, a rare combination.
—The New York Times
Library Journal

Wheatcroft (director, Centre for Publishing Studies, Univ. of Stirling, Scotland; Infidels) offers a richly detailed account of the 1683 Ottoman siege of Vienna and subsequent battle with the Hapsburg central European forces. Although focusing on a single military campaign, Wheatcroft draws on decades of his own research on the Hapsburg-Ottoman conflict to provide needed historical context for the events of war. As Wheatcroft aptly states in his introduction, his is in fact a broader study that seeks to understand "Europe's fear of the Turks" within the frame of a specific Ottoman-Hapsburg military clash. Much of Wheatcroft's detail comes from European accounts of life in the Ottoman Empire and first-person descriptions of war, but the inherent bias in these sources is always acknowledged. As a result, Wheatcroft is able to move beyond tales of the "Terrible Turks" to provide a realistic portrayal of Ottoman leadership, a political context for the Hapsburg-Ottoman conflict, and a description of the shifting balance of power between these two dynasties. This is not a work of popular history for the casual reader, but scholars and students of history would benefit greatly from this well-researched account of 17th-century Ottoman-Hapsburg political power.
—Veronica Arellano

Kirkus Reviews
Historian Wheatcroft (Centre for Publishing Studies/Univ. of Stirling; Infidels: A History of the Conflict Between Christendom and Islam, 2004, etc.) presents a blow-by-blow account of the Siege of Vienna of 1683. Determined to "bring all people under Ottoman rule and under the authority of Islam," Sultan Mehmed IV, along with his Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa, gathered their vast army-comprised of ferocious Tartars, janissaries and Balkan riders-and marched on Vienna, the seat of Christianity and Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I. The Ottomans might well have succeeded if the Germans and Polish cavalry hadn't come to the Habsburgs' rescue. Wheatcroft demonstrates a scholarly command of this multifaceted area of history, carefully sifting through the evidence on both sides, Western and Eastern. He dutifully chronicles the two-month showdown, which ended in the rout of the Turks by military leaders such as Prince Eugene of Savoy, Charles of Lorraine and Count Ernst Rudiger von Starhemberg. While the Habsburg defenses' were vulnerable, weakened by the Thirty Years' War, the leaders were strong, the tactics effective and the Viennese stronghold substantial. Their outright fear of the enemy-"Turkish armies were terrifying to behold"-proved instrumental as well. In contrast, the Ottomans, under the vainglorious Vizier, underestimated the Habsburg strengths and could not control their own manpower; their confidence in victory proved "delusional." Wheatcroft does a fine job marshaling much of the available new research, emphasizing the role of Hungary as "the battleground in the confrontation between two great empires."A highly specialized but informative study. Agent: Clare Alexander/Aitken Alexander

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465020812
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
11/09/2010
Edition description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
136,075
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
New York Times Book Review
“As Andrew Wheatcroft brilliantly shows in The Enemy at the Gate, the skirmishes and the pitched battles that raged for centuries between Habsburgs and Ottomans, and their numerous vassals on both sides, represented not so much a ‘clash of civilizations’ as a collision of empires…. [H]is narrative is thrilling as well as thoughtful, a rare combination.”

Washington Times
“There are two stories here worth telling and well told: the blood-and-thunder tale of the heroic defense of Vienna against the Ottomans in 1683, the surge in morale after the Habsburg victory, and the war to recover Hungary and the Balkans from the Turks. The other story is of the obsessive fear and hatred of the Turks in Christian central Europe, exorcised by the Habsburg victory at Vienna, turning to revenge and reconquest led first by Duke Charles of Lorraine, then by the legendary Prince Eugene of Savoy, ending in exhausted and bankrupt stability.”

Telegraph
“[A] riveting narrative, Andrew Wheatcroft’s The Enemy at the Gate…tells the story of the final Habsburg-Ottoman showdown at the gates of Vienna in 1683, one of the genuine turning points in European history.”

Independent
“Andrew Wheatcroft’s The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe brilliantly reconstructs the climactic conflict between Muslim ‘East’ and Christian ‘West’, at Vienna in 1683.”

Telegraph
“A masterpiece of historical writing….The story of the siege reads as compellingly as a Dumas novel.”

Literary Review
“Intensely gripping… The Enemy at the Gate is rich and multilayered… Wheatcroft has done us all a service.”

Sunday Telegraph
“A fascinating and compelling story, a clash between a mighty besieging army and one of the major cities of Europe, involving extraordinary efforts and sacrifices on both sides.”

Financial Times
“Ambitious…Wheatcroft is undeniably expert in his field.”

Times Higher Education Supplement
“It is one of the book's strengths that it demonstrates how far Ottomans, Habsburgs and the rest of Europe lived in a common world with borders that were more porous than we usually imagine.”

The Weekly Standard
“ “[Wheatcroft’s] fourth book is primarily a military history of the clashes between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires in the 17th century, the fruit of more than 20 years researching in the field…. Some of the most suggestive material here is on military organization, equipment, and tactics.”

Victor Davis Hanson, First Things
“Wheatcroft offers a riveting account of the slow, methodical Ottoman approach to Vienna…. [A] masterful account of the siege and battle.”

Michigan War Studies Review
“Wheatcroft displays exceptional awareness of the power of the printed word not only to crystallize and reproduce specific facts or news for a mass audience, but to preserve and especially propagate a particular opinion of a given subject. Throughout, he strives to distinguish between the actual siege of Vienna in 1683 and the one preserved in the Western imagination, noting print’s power to distort and undervalue the humanity of the Ottoman Turks.”

Choice
“Wheatcroft’s real contribution is his illustration of complex Ottoman administrative and military structures. In fact, the book reveals these to have been a main source of Ottoman power; not, as many have suggested, the provocation of fear through terror or oriental savagery. Wheatcroft also adeptly addresses important historiographical questions about Ottoman decline, the dangers of over-reliance on secondary source materials, syncretism of nomadic steppe tradition with Islamic values, and fine contrasts between Ottoman and European military techniques.”

Journal of Military History
“Andrew Wheatcroft writes exciting and provocative books, and The Enemy at the Gate is no exception…. As battle history this book is great…. The descriptions of the fortifications, weapons, tactics, attacks, and counterattacks are vivid and compelling…. Even though the reader knows how the siege will turn out, he/she is eager to turn the next page to see if the next explosion and attack will enable the Turks to get into the city.”

Austrian History Yearbook “Andrew Wheatcroft has written an engaging and thought-provoking narrative of the second Ottoman siege of Vienna…There is a lot to praise in the book, including Wheatcroft’s reconstruction of the European fear of the ‘Turks’…his vivid description of the siege and defense, and his effort to give the Ottomans their due regarding their skills and mastery in siege warfare….a good read for history buffs.”

Meet the Author


Andrew Wheatcroft is Professor of International Publishing and Communication and Director of the Centre for Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling. He is the author of Infidels, The Habsburgs, and The Ottomans, and has been researching the material for The Enemy at the Gate for more than twenty years. He lives in Scotland.

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The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans, and the Battle for Europe 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was a help to learning more about the siege and even beyond, which was nice. The author could have used maybe not so many quotes - seemed to be a lot. Also, there were quite a few typos, but again, the history was helpful.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I found the book so very interesting. Haveing taveled a great deal it made exciting reading. I do not always read books about battles, but this book was so exciting I couldn't go to sleep without knowing what happened and how. I knew the outcome, of course, but I still culdn't put it down. When my son visited and saw the book, he borrowed it and another son and also a friend wanted to read it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading practice and dedication to learning new words are upper level goals for me to attain. Relevance today's international relations is good.