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

David King, Author Harmony $27.50 (434p) ISBN 978-0-307-33716-0

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.)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2008
Release date: 03/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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