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

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,031 ratings  ·  128 reviews
Major historian Andrew Wheatcroft reveals the full story behind four centuries of Ottoman incursions into the heartlands of Europe.

In 1683, two empires — the Ottoman, based in Constantinople, and the Habsburg dynasty in Vienna — came face to face in the culmination of a 250-year-old struggle for power at the Great Siege of Vienna. Within the city walls, the choice of resis
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published August 31st 2009 by The Bodley Head Ltd.
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Clif Hostetler
Jul 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book recounts the collision of empires by describing the many pitched battles that raged for centuries between the Habsburgs and Ottomans and their numerous vassal states on both sides. It was touted on both sides as being a clash of the Godly versus the infidel.

Territory was the aim. But there was another less tangible motivation, the claim of heir to the legacy of the Roman Empire. I didn’t realize before I read this book that the Ottoman Sultans considered themselves to be the true succ
'Aussie Rick'
Dec 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book had the potential to offer so much on such an interesting subject however I found the author’s style of writing dull, so much so that I had problems finishing this book.

It’s a shame but I don’t think that this book offered anything new in this history of the 1683 Ottoman siege of Vienna that hasn’t already been covered in John Stoye’s “The Siege of Vienna”.

If you have not previously read anything on this subject then this may be the book for you but be aware that I found the writing
An excellent account of the siege of Vienna of 1683 and its aftermath - there is also a little about the history of the Habsburg-ottoman conflict and a good analysis of the reasons for the attack and the previous attempts of the Ottomans to take Vienna, but the bulk of the book is the siege and the Habsburg decisive victories that followed in the next 16 years
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I enjoyed this fairly detailed history of the centuries of conflict between the Ottomans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There is an agenda, but it isn’t addressed until the final chapter, so that the bulk of the book can be read without the fog of a big message. Wheatcroft wants to draw parallells between the fear of the Turk that drove A-H diplomacy military affairs in the 1600s and the fear of the Turk (immigrant) that now affects much European policy toward ‘guest workers’. He makes the cas ...more
Myke Cole
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This a riveting account of an incredibly dramatic battle, and a key point in world history, that is sadly underdocumented/analyzed in English. The only other available books in current circulation are Stoyes' book, which is extremely dry and dull, and Simmons' book, which is little more than a well-written pamphlet aimed at wargamers.

Wheatcroft does great justice to this incredible story, using a narrative style that focuses in on characters in their own words, and uses the uniting theme of fear
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Many historical events can be viewed from different perspectives, but the siege of Vienna, from 17 July – 12 September 1683, is one where historians can look at the same facts yet come to completely different conclusions. For instance, the siege could be viewed as a foolish overreach by the Ottomans, leaving fortified Austrian positions on their flank and trying to maintain an army of 170,000 at the end of a supply line stretching all the way back to Belgrade. However, it has also been seen as a ...more
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The book has its strong and weak points. It’s an easy read. It’s informative. The author adds value with his analysis. He makes very persuasive links between the specific subject he covers and broader histories such as those of Europe as a whole. He also makes a strong case against conventional wisdom – especially the famous “sick man of Europe” narrative, which is applied to both the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires at certain stages of their history. However, I think I got the gist of his ...more
In this book Wheatcroft brilliantly shows the skirmishes and battles that raged for centuries between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans, and their numerous vassals on both sides, represented not so much a “clash of civilizations’ as a collision of Empires. The author point out the struggle was not so much between Islam and Christendom, territory was the goal, and the right to claim the legacy of the Roman Empire.

Wheatcroft is the author of several books on both the Hapsburg and Ottomans. He is a no
Feb 03, 2014 rated it liked it
A good book that could have been great with some editing. I did not know much about the Ottoman empire, or the Siege of Vienna, so I found it enjoyable overall.

The good: overview of Turkish history; description of the Ottoman fighting style, particularly how their organization and cleanliness set them apart from Western armies; the descriptions of the major players (the sultan, emperor, grand vizier and various generals) and the siege of Vienna. The not-so-good: too much military detail in parts
Steven Raszewski
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent history of which I knew very little. Great writing style. The savagery of the Ottoman vs Habsburgs wars is not surpassed anywhere throughout history. Equaled by the Eastern Front of WWII.
Jun 04, 2015 rated it liked it
This book was very informative, but I didn't feel any great passion about it, nor get a huge sense of the author's point of view until the end, when he covers the centuries following this conflict. The Ottomans' continued desire to conquer Vienna belied their conviction that they were the true successors to the Eastern Roman Empire since they had conquered the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople. The Ottomans wanted to be a bit more then merely the leading Islamic nation in trade, technology and ...more
J.P. Mac
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable narrative on the clash between the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires in 1683. A high-water mark for Ottoman conquest in Europe, the Turks were forced back by a Hapsburg counterattack and compelled to surrender Hungary.

Most fascinating for me was the tactical differences between the two armies and the effect of the printing press on Western military development. Turks were hand-to-hand masters who surged forward in a mob, while Hapsburg forces maneuvered in mass thanks to drills codified and
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Andrew Wheatcroft opens by reviewing the history of Ottoman expansion, and the divergent evolution of its military to those of the Austrian empire’s. Although Ottoman forces were formidable, technical advances in the west, combined with the tighter control and organization of western forces, meant that the much larger Ottoman force had in Vienna a tough nut to crack. Its attack was reduced to a prolonged siege, one Wheatcroft compares to Stalingrad, until at least the Poles attacked and relieved ...more
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a well researched book. The book on the siege of Vienna in English.

This is why.
Andrew Wheatcroft clearly explains and shows the glory of the siege of Vienna. While making some stupid remarks about some of the Catholic generals being fat and that in the end, they all retired and died, this is outweighed by his recounting of their true Catholic spirit of loyalty, honour, discipline, daring and self sacrifice. Wheatcroft also goes through the aftermath all the way to the collapse of the Au
Dec 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: european-history
This is a good, readable book about a period in history that is little-known to us in the English-speaking world. While I enjoyed the book, I found that the author tended to meander at times, and there were a lot of digressions that took away from the focus on the drama before the walls of Vienna in 1683.

An interesting take on the Austro-Turkish relationship is found in the end of the book, when Wheatcroft shows the two empires fostering more friendly relations in the 19th century, ultimately fi
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book that follows the second siege of Vienna from two viewpoints: the build-up from the Ottoman side and the end and aftermath from the Hapsburg camp. Great narrative of the unravelling of the campaign, the conventions of early modern warfare, and the advantages and shortcomings of each side. A great argument is made for a sceptic disposition towards a popular grand statement on the alleged long-term decline of Ottoman power, wherein the siege functions as a tipping point. The w ...more
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable and informative narrative of the Ottoman campaign to take Vienna in 1683, its antecedents and the resulting campaigns by the Hapsburgs to throw back the Turkish invaders of Europe.
Marco Federighi
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Enemy at the Gate is a history of the interaction, in war and in peace, between the Habsburg Empire (or Holy Roman Empire) and the Ottoman Empire, centred on the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683. The siege, its background and aftermath are the core of the book, but the less immediate antecedents (starting from the arrival of the Turks in the Middle East and Anatolia) and aftermath (until the First World War) are also outlined, the more sketchily as the time distance from 1683 increases. The autho ...more
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is basically the perfect military history. Beginning with a beautifully written introduction that sets out a few main themes that will guide the writing, what follows is straight narrative history. I was relieved by the lack of "cultural explanations" (indeed this author --Voltaire reborn--doesn't seem to feel passionately about either side) and also thankfully missing is character analysis. You will have to find a different book to learn about the foibles of Leopold, Kara Mustafa, Starhemb ...more
Mar 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Europe from the 12th - 17th century, has always been my historical weak point so I sought out this book to obtain a decent overview of an important era and battle that I had only previously known about in passing. Thankfully, the author provides just that, a nice overview of the second siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Turkish Empire, but sometimes he skims over important events and individuals to quickly.

If you have never studied this era, there is still quite a bit of new information contained he
Jan 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent and well-written narrative history, primarily focused on military matters, though the author also covers political, social, and cultural issues to a lesser extent. While the events leading up to the siege of Vienna by the Ottomans and the campaigns following its subsequent relief are gripping in their own right, the antecedents to our current and seemingly intractable differences with the Islamic world are laid out and are shown to be deeply rooted in the same fears and manifested i ...more
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Really liked this book. It was relatively small but it was well written and the prose was good. The beginning maybe had a little too much unrelated details on the ottomans culture and etc, but all in all in my opinion the author did a really good job describing the siege of vienna, the battle outside it and the subsequent campaigns.

Perhaps for those with more knowledge on the battle and the campaigns itself this book may appear as shallow. But for me, who had absolutely no knowledge of the battl
Aug 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at the Ottoman attack on Vienna in 1683, along with a particularly smart discussion of how, ironically enough, after that the frontier settled around Yugoslavia, and then the Ottomans slowly became part of Europe in several ways, rhetorically at least, when compared to the Russian menace. Hence their role in the Crimean War and their joining WWI on the side of Austria-Hungary, the same empire they'd besieged 300 years before. It was oddly apropos to read his conclusion about t ...more
Christian Olson
Dec 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Pretty good read, seemed well researched, held my interest, pacing was moderate, dived into great detail on both sides, more detail about the Ottomans. The end of the book is slower than I expected. I like that the author was interested in what has happened since the lifting of the siege of Vienna but, it is a bunch of ground to cover and it dragged a bit.
No splashy battles here. The book deals with the centuries of cultural and political history surrounding the 1683 Siege of Vienna, instead of the engagement itself. The author often doesn't seem to have a clear thesis. Still, the book is interesting.

Some quotes that struck me as either amusing or strange:

- "Extra Hungariam non est vita, si est vita non est ita." - there's no life outside Hungary, and if there is, it's not life.

- "The Habsburg commanders were more capable than any comparable Otto
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Well led and well motivated, despite all the rumours of their 'decline' the janissary corps was still formidable, in the right circumstances. But no Ottoman commander could control or direct his janissaries in the way that a western general could command his infantry. For the Ottomans as the seventeenth century was drawing towards its close the battlefield was increasingly alien and unfamiliar territory." (28)

"The Viennese swarmed out from the foetid city and snatched what remained. A half-trut
Feb 20, 2021 rated it liked it
Wheatcroft ultimately provides a valuable service in covering a tremendously important period of European (and for obvious reasons) world history. To say that the 1683 siege of Vienna has continued resonance and relevance is something of an understatement. Ever had a croissant? But the book for me ultimately fell short. The book provides relatively little context for these 17c events and yet simultaneously tries to stretch the narrative after the events not just to the “reconquest” of Hungary bu ...more
Matt Bates
Apr 16, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was interesting, though it set out to do two things (to which it accomplished to varying degrees): to tell the story of the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683 and to tell the complicated history of the Habsburg dynasty with the Ottoman Empire from the 16th - 20th centuries. I feel that the narrative about the siege itself was well done, albeit brief since it comprised about 60% of the book, despite being the major centerpiece of the conflict between these two powers in 17th century Europe ...more
Chris Wares
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book.

Described the background, events and consequences of the confrontations between the Hapsburgs and the Ottomans in the seventeenth century.

Focussing on the Siege of Vienna in 1683 the book describes the earlier sixteenth century events that set the scene - Belgrade, Mohacs (1526), the siege of Budapest (1541) and the first siege of Vienna (1529) followed by the build up to the 1683 siege by Mehmed IV's Ottoman army and then the Holy League's relief of Vienna and subsequent reconqu
Joshua Horn
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was an interesting book about an interesting period of history about which I knew little. I did, however, feel that it feel short in several ways. First, there were some sections where I couldn't understand what he was saying, like when he was describing the defenses of Geneva. Perhaps a graph would have helped which leads to my next complaint: second, while there were some maps, they could have been much better. Third, Wheatcroft goes into too great depth in some areas, like analyzing some ...more
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Andrew Wheatcroftis Professor of International Publishing and Communication and Director of the Centre for Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling. He is the author ofInfidels,The Habsburgs, andThe Ottomans, and has been researching the material for The Enemy at the Gatefor more than twenty years.

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