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Publisher's Summary

The Napoleonic Wars had torn Europe apart, and the peace conference of 1814 was to be held in the continent's grandest city: Vienna. Everyone had an agenda in the postwar world, and spy networks, bitter hatreds, illicit affairs, and tangled alliances ensued.

Despite the gravity of the situation, the Hapsburg Emperor of Austria, in opening his splendid rococo palace to the European royals and providing elaborate banquets and lavish entertainments, set the stage for the most extravagant pageantry since the fall of the Roman Empire. Guests were swept up in the dazzling whirlwind of social events - masquerades, hunts, and elaborate dinners - even as maps were being redrawn, rulers reinstated or ousted, and fortunes transferred. Ultimately, the Congress of Vienna ushered in the longest period of peace Europe has ever known.

Vienna 1814 is a rich, impeccably researched history of the intrigue and frivolity that would forever mark the Congress of Vienna as the greatest Vanity Fair of all time.

©2008 David King; (P)2008 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Deftly paced and engagingly written." (Publishers Weekly)
"A worthy contribution to the study of a critical historical event long neglected by historians." (Library Journal)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Adam
  • IRVING, TX, United States
  • 09-29-11

Very good

This book is well written, and covers an important topic that not a lot has been written about recently. This topic isn't just the culmination of 30 years of events in Europe, but also sets the stage for the trouble later in the century, which ultimately leads to WW1 and WW2. This book also helps you understand why certain events around this time in America occurred as they did, such as the end of the War of 1812. I also liked the details it gives about life in Vienna in the early 19th century, which almost makes you feel like you are there. My only complaint is that by the second half of the book, some of the social details become a bit repetitive. This is minor, and the book overall is well worth it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

brings you into the whirl of the time

This books does a nice job bring the reader, listener, into the life of the Congress of Vienna, part party, part diplomacy. With the party dominant. It turns out that the party aspects of the event were closely interlocked with the diplomacy aspects, at least insofar as the author is able to show. So it seems necessary to be cognizant of both. At times, I found the party aspects a bit overwhelming, but the author (& the narrator) are able to bring things together at the end of each thematic section to make what you have heard relevant. I am more comfortable with political/diplomatic history of this period, so it some ways it was refreshing to see the players in their times of pleasure & partying, and not just in their times of plotting.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing narrator

Would you listen to Vienna 1814 again? Why?

This is a fine history, interesting and useful. It is wonderfully insightful for anyone interested in the Napoleonic Era.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Mel Foster?

Sadly, Mr. Foster does not even know how to properly pronounce Viscount Castlereagh's name, which is both distracting and enevitably annoying as he is a key participant. Any reasonable narrator should be able to handle this responsibility.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

A fine tome mishandled by a poor narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Good book--shameful reading

This is a terrific book, full of interest and historical detail. But as other listeners have pointed out, the pronunciation errors are inexcusable. This guy simply butchers foreign names--and even English ones! The publisher should know better than to release such a shameful performance.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Entertaining and informative

First: yes, the narrator really should just not bother trying to pronounce the German and French names and words - he only embarrasses himself. I happened to find his hapless attempts more amusing than annoying however, and in between he does a fine job of conveying Mr. King's engaging portrait of the brilliant, quirky, and deeply flawed people who did so much to shape European and, by extension, world history for the decades and centuries to follow.

This is the kind of history I find most informative, and certainly most fun. Metternich, Czar Alexander, Talleyrand and the rest at the Congress of Vienna were in the long run fighting a losing battle against the ideas and legal structures that Napoleon had carried from France to the rest of the continent, and against the industrial and economic changes spreading inexorably south and east from Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool; but as crucial as these broader social and economic trends are, history is also shaped by individual humans, and King brings many of the most influential to life in this engaging look at one eventful (and often weird) year at a turning point in 19th Century history.

He efficiently provides just enough of the broader context while focusing on the lives of these elites: their petty squabbles, their endless parties and conspicuous consumption, their love affairs, their mutual spying and intrigues, and the diplomatic maneuverings and power plays that ended up shaping the post-Napoleonic era.

Amid all the fun, I found myself periodically having to remind myself that these people wined and dined and danced on the back of the brutal exploitation of 80-90% of the population; and that their casual horse-trading at elegant salons often doomed entire societies (notably the Poles). But for good or ill, this is how history was (and still is) made, and King – largely through their own words in letters, diaries and diplomatic dispatches – gives us a compelling look at the people who made it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • A.
  • 07-14-12

Narrator cannot correctly pronounce German

This is an entertaining and informative account of the Congress of Vienna. It is a good reminder that politicians and diplomats have always been up to no good and those of our own age are no worse than others. But why did the producers choose a narrator with little command of German pronunciation? One would think that would be a basic requirement. If you know any German, you will find this audiobook a truly irritating listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mary-Jo
  • New York, NY, USA
  • 10-06-08

Not bad, but pronunciation not so good!

I agree with Daniel -- I enjoyed this book. But I have a complaint -- bad pronunciation of non-English words. Castlereagh of Ireland should be CASTLE-RAY not CASTLE-RAW. Go to dictionary.com to hear it pronounced correctly. Dorothee, a German name, should be DO-RO-TAY not DO-RO-thee. And many more.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Usually Interesting, Often Madening

Mostly, I enjoyed it. Though, the story lingered at times and pronounciation was occasionally awful.

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Amazing mix of history and true drama!

This was exactly what I was looking for. A piece of history tied to other great events (defeat of Napoleon, in particular), but completely new and wondrous to me! The characters are fantastic and the spectacle is hard to believe but also impossible not to believe with such great detail. A mix of history, intrigue, love affairs, war, and extravagance all mixed into the party the just kept raging for months.

Narration was excellent and I loved the structure of the book as well.

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too much soap opera

This book had way too many details about love affairs between characters. Such minutiae of the personal lives of main characters should be used to explain why they may have acted as they did and not be the main emphasis. This book focused more on the sexual intrigues of the participants at the Vienna Congress than what they actually achieved (or failed to achieve) politically. At the end the author gives a cursory summary as to what was actually resolved in the "Final Act" (treaty).