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Vienna, 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  517 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
“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.”
—David Fromkin, author of Europe’s Last Summer

Vienna, 1814 is an evocative and brilliantly researched account of the most audacious and extravagant peace conference in modern European history. With the feared Napoleon
Paperback, 464 pages
Published March 24th 2009 by Broadway Books (first published 2008)
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May 23, 2008 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like gossip magazines but also like to pretend to be intellectual.
Okay, so you know how you're in that airport bookstore because you've tragically finished off your book before its even time to take off? (Because naturally nobody on goodreads would be caught there because they forgot to bring a book.) So you're standing, torn, between that shelf of NYT bestsellers, cheap thrillers, a few Serious Looking Histories... and those shiny, shiny pretty ridiculously indulgent magazine racks and trying to pretend like you don't care /at all/ if Brangelina had the world ...more
Dec 11, 2011 Madeline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Kings, queens, princes, and diplomats would all pour into the city of Vienna in the autumn of 1814 for the highly anticipated peace conference. More than 200 states and princely houses would send delegates to settle the many unresolved issues. How were the victors to reconstruct the war-torn continent? How were they going to make restitution to the millions who had lost family members or suffered the horrors of Napoleonic domination? The Vienna Congress offered a chance to correct the wrongs of ...more
A.J. Howard
The genre of "popular history" is somewhat hard to pin down, over the years I've seen it defined in a number of different ways. The most common definition you'll find is any work of history written for a non-academic audience, but this has always seemed somewhat limiting to me. After all, can't a work accessible to the general populace also advance scholarship? This dichotomy between popular and academic history results in having the former type be almost overwhelmingly broad while the latter ty ...more
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
If you're at all interested in modern European history, and looking for a bit of a racy tale too, then this book is for you. David King is to be commended for crafting such an elegant and engaging work that really does read like a novel. Vienna 1814 details the doings of the Congress of Vienna, held in Vienna, Austria, in late-1814 and early-1815, its expressed purpose to restore Europe following the abdication of Napoleon to Elba and the end of nearly 20 years of war across Europe. Kings and Qu ...more
Sherwood Smith
Anyone interested in the Napoleonic era might enjoy this look at the personalities gathered at the Congress of Vienna over the latter part of 1814 through early 1815, when the protracted (and killingly expensive) gaieties were summarily interrupted by Napoleon's escape from Elba.

It was amusing to recognize bits from this or that memoir or set of letters, however unlike those, King navigates between the Scylla of unreliable narrators (and the memoirists are all more or less unreliable in that the
Peculiar mismatch of modern and period interests.

I hate to tell you this, but the fortunes of different peculiarly named German noble houses have turned out to have fuck all historical interest after that little thing we call the 20th century. Unless you're going to include the nasty details, I also do not care who Mitternich was dreaming about shagging on any given day. (I think it was mostly the Tsar. Or maybe thats the author.)

But, yes, let's dedicate chapters and chapters to that and only
Dec 26, 2013 Juliet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
About how the Congress of Vienna arrived at the decisions that it made after Napoleon's first abdication, and why it took such a tremendously long time for them to arrive at a conclusion. King does a good job of making all the players distinct and memorable. The pictures also help tremendously. But this book DESPERATELY NEEDS MAPS! King kept referring to this or that country which no longer exists, and how this one was next to that one and why that proximity made it a region that some other coun ...more
Nov 02, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all--written by a Kentuckian and a professor at my alma mater UK. Yeah! Okay, moving on...fascinating topic that I was not knowledgable about previously, and an interesting, novel-y writing style. I loved all the gossipy stuff about the parties and the love affairs, and all the lovely descriptions of gowns and mansions and various intrigues. And while a lot of the political/diplomatic information was interesting, I did get a little bogged down when this got extremely detailed; I'm simpl ...more
David Kamioner
Aug 13, 2009 David Kamioner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
okay, it's a trend. the prequel to Versailles. really good stuff.
Dec 04, 2016 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful history about the Vienna Congress of 1814, a super fascinating 9 month event that happened in Vienna after the Napoleonic Wars in which all of the different European powers met together to discuss how to move forward, to allocate territories, set boundaries, and of course see and be seen.
Joseph Millo
Nov 25, 2016 Joseph Millo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Informative, interesting, and well written. In contrast to Kissinger's A World Restored, this book contains more information about the social and cultural side of the congress. Highly recommended.
Mar 18, 2017 Aishuu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's interesting to see the evolution of early international politics through this conference. Plenty of good information here, and highlights the less famous aspect of Napoleon's fall.
Steven Shane
So detailed with the social history, I wanted to have as vivid a picture of the political details too.
Sep 03, 2014 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, long-18thc, war, 2014
Napoleon abdicated from the French throne in 1814, but his abdication didn't solve the problems created by the previous quarter-century of warfare and destruction and looting. Almost every political structure that Europe had built up was damaged or transformed, and there were an awful lot of grudges to be settled and damage to be repaired. But how to do it? The Vienna Congress set out to figure it all out, to put Europe back together again. The initial plan was to work in Vienna for a few weeks. ...more
Rodney Harvill
Dec 09, 2015 Rodney Harvill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
After Napoleon was defeated in the Battle of the Nations and exiled to Elba, the European elite converged on Vienna to restore the pre-Napoleonic geopolitical power structure and to pick winners and losers in this effort. As it turned out, this was more of a giant party than anything else, and most of the decisions were made in back-room deals rather than open negotiations. When I had read Margaret Macmillan's book Paris 1919, I had noticed an incident in which a Romanian countess, during a chat ...more
Jul 09, 2016 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Synopsis: "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" via David Fromkin, author of Europe’s Last Summer

Vienna, 1814 is a wonderuflly evocative and brilliantly researched account of one of the most audacious and extravagant peace conference in modern European history. With Napoleon Bonaparte presumably defeated (and exiled to Elba), heads of some 216 states gathered in Vienna to create
Apr 19, 2008 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book starts very slow, with the admittedly required set-up of the characters. Metternich, Tallyrand, and the other key figures at the Congress of Vienna are placed in their historical context, and the reader gets a primer on each of their backgrounds and what makes each one tic. Next comes a section which makes a reader feel like he is reading Us Weekly, rather than a historical work, with details of sordid affairs, and other gossip that is seemingly unworthy of a serious look at one of the ...more
Aug 22, 2008 lisa_emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: viennaphiles, historical-waltzers
I read a study somewhere, perhaps long ago, that men tended to read history and women tended to read fiction. Well, Vienna, 1814 should appeal to both type of readers- it presents history with a dramtic flair. In the first chapter, King opens the world stage by parading the pivotal world leaders who will determine Europe's boundaries and power alliances after Napolean's attempt of a total takeover. Heads of state, royalty and side players all convene in Vienna in 1814 while Napolean schemed and ...more
Nov 17, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte has been defeated and exiled to the island of Elba, and the representatives of the victorious European states gathered in Vienna to decide how to construct the peace. There are important questions to be decided: how should France be treated/punished, how should the liberated territories be divided, how should states be compensated for their losses? But in the background of the peace conference, Vienna is a vitual Vanity Fair as kings, queens, diplomats, and socialit ...more
Oct 15, 2008 Erik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Long story short: people are people, no matter the time or place. Vienna 1814, an ultimate argument for the aforementioned thesis, captures this point effectively in retelling the story of the greatest party and slowest peace negotiation that graced nineteenth century Europe. It had everything - drunks, old guys that tell their wars stories to anyone who will listen, societal bigwigs, international intrigues and, of course, divas. While Paris Hilton wasn't there, she'd probably surmise the level ...more
Oct 23, 2012 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting book. It probably would have been a better read for European History as opposed to Military History as it is much more about the various negotiations and hagglings after the bulk of the Napoleonic Wars had been fought. The book does do a very good job of detailing the major issues of Vienna, the fates of Poland, Saxony, and the Kingdom of Naples, as well as lesser issues, the struggle to end slavery, the struggle to get rights for Jews, and the struggle to protect publish ...more
Feb 09, 2009 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It isn't exactly historical fiction and it isn't exactly history - it something in between. He creates dialog between people but he knew that they had the conversation at that time and place. He quotes from diaries and reports from that period too.

I happen to love Vienna so it was great to "visit" it in this book. I kept thinking I want to go see that place or this place when I read about events occurring there. The people who attended the Congress were also very inte
Aug 09, 2012 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tallyrand, Tsar Alexander, Metternich, Wellington, Napolean, and all their various friends and lovers play a role in forming a new Europe, as well as providing a fascinating view of the end of early modern Imperial life. While gathered in post - Napoleanic Vienna to try to restore Europe to a pre-1793 life, the Allied leaders instead recreate Europe, and ensure a century of turbulence. While creating the first ever peacetime alliance, they set in motion the rise of Prussia, and the remarkable al ...more
This book has been criticized by some as too focused on the romantic intruigues surrounding the Congress (which after all the author makes clear in the subtitle), so I almost avoided it. While it is true that the book is much stronger on "human interest" than on hardcore geopolitical information, it did not descend into lurid or lascivious details. I found it an excellent overview of a period of history which is pretty hard to get a handle on from the current time/space distance. It helped make ...more
Jul 24, 2012 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you can look past the tediously tabloidish chatter about the romping love lives of the participants, this is an interesting and sprightly history of a crucial moment in the history of Europe. In a transparent effort to add pizzazz to a topic not known for great sales potential, the books is stuffed with sexual nuggets big and small, rendered with a gleeful tattletale flavor that does serious damage to quality of this book. This is a shame, because the book is otherwise well-written, fascinati ...more
Scott Martin
Oct 05, 2014 Scott Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Audiobook). For a work discussing a key geo-political event (how the Congress of Vienna played a role in setting the foundation for a post-Napoleon Europe), it read an awful lot like a high-school drama. The big men on campus (the Russian Czar, the French and Austrian Foreign ministers, etc) were all trying to show they were the biggest and baddest men in the school, the key women trying to rule the social roost. Romance and recreation dominating the work environment, personal hatred and love a ...more
Apr 13, 2009 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I learned an awful lot from the book. That may have more to do with my ignorance of history than anything else. Still he packed a great deal of information into the book and gives you a good feel for the personalities involved. At times all the descriptions of balls, salons, dinner parties, and ceremonies seems to interrupt the flow of the political action, but I finally got the feeling that that is actually what happened at the congress also - pleasure seemed to crowd out the ugly work. I ...more
Apr 23, 2009 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unusual and lively account of the 1814 Congress of Vienna that focuses as much on the social life as on the politics. The point is that the European and aristocratic rulers appeared to be far more interested in balls, sleigh rides and mock medieval tournaments than in rebuilding Europe after Napoleon had been banished to Elba. The major emphasis is on Tallyrand and Metternich, who come across as full personalities, but also follows more minor participants. I think this is a good approach that pr ...more
Patrick Ross
Sep 02, 2013 Patrick Ross rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The Congress of Vienna dragged on and on, and at times this book drags as well. But for the most part it moves at a good clip, and has something for lovers of history as well as those who love zany characters doing outrageous things. Because the fact is that the individuals who had climbed to the top of the diplomatic rungs at the end of Napoleon's first run were over-the-top and, naturally, held an over-the-top congress to redraw the map of Europe. The process of that map redrawing is fascinati ...more
David Eppenstein
This was a rather lengthy recounting of the intrigues, political and social manueverings, debauchery, and endless partying that went on in Vienna following the fall of Napoleon in 1814. The various heads of the allied states along with their ministers of state and the necessary retinues filled Vienna for the purpose of dividing the spoils of war but that occupation didn't prevent them from having a good time and attempting to outdo and impress and intimidate each other at every opportunity. This ...more
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  • Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna
  • Talleyrand
  • The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815
  • The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It
  • The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy
  • Russia Against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe, 1807 to 1814
  • Napoleon's Wars: An International History, 1803-1815
  • The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871
  • 1848: Year of Revolution
  • Frederick the Great
  • A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889
  • Defenders of the Faith: Charles V, Suleyman the Magnificent, and the Battle for Europe, 1520-1536
  • The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France, 1870-1871
  • The Man Who Broke Napoleon's Codes: The Story of George Scovell
  • Waterloo: June 18, 1815: The Battle For Modern Europe
  • The Vertigo Years: Europe 1900-1914
  • Defeat: Napoleon's Russian Campaign
  • The Red Prince
David King is the author of "Finding Atlantis", "Vienna 1814", and, most recently, "Death in the City of Light".
A Fulbright Scholar with a master's degree from Cambridge University, King taught European history at the University of Kentucky before becoming a full-time writer.
More about David King...

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