"From the Congress of Vienna to the Austria World Summit, the city of Vienna has hosted key meetings on peace to climate action. This is a first-class book about Vienna as the crossroads of civilization and as the international capital." —Arnold Schwarzenegger
A rich and illuminating history of the world capital that has transformed art, culture, and politics.
Vienna is unique amongst world capitals in its consistent international importance over the centuries. From the ascent of the Habsburgs as Europe's leading dynasty to the Congress of Vienna, which reordered Europe in the wake of Napoleon's downfall, to bridge-building summits during the Cold War, Vienna has been the scene of key moments in world history.
Scores of pivotal figures were influenced by their time in Vienna, including: Empress Maria Theresa, Count Metternich, Bertha von Suttner, Theodore Herzl, Gustav Mahler, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, John F. Kennedy, and many others. In a city of great composers, artists, and thinkers, it is here that both the most positive and destructive ideas of recent history have developed.
From its time as the capital of an imperial superpower, through war, dissolution, dictatorship to democracy Vienna has reinvented itself and its relevance to the rest of the world.
Scottish MP Robertson, a former broadcast journalist based in Vienna, debuts with a sweeping history of the Austrian capital from its ancient Roman roots as the "fortified garrison town" Vindobona to the present day. Contending that Vienna "has been at the crossroads of European civilisations... for more than two millennia," Robertson swiftly chronicles the city's development after Roman settlers fled Attila the Hun's invading forces in the fifth century through the rise of Renaissance Vienna as a place, according to the future Pope Pius II, of "unlimited" opportunities for men and women. The bulk of the book depicts Vienna's centuries-long run as the seat of the Habsburg dynasty, detailing, among other highlights, the origins of the city's coffee-house tradition in the failed 1683 siege by Ottoman forces and Empress Maria Theresa's use of marriage diplomacy to spread Habsburg influence across Europe. Robertson also documents how antisemitism overcame the tolerance that helped Eastern European Jews prosper under the reign of Emperor Francis Joseph I and sketches Adolf Hitler's residence in the city as an 18-year-old struggling artist. Throughout, marginalized voices and lesser-known sources provide vivid details about the symbolism of the Austrian flag, the cramped living conditions in 19th-century apartment buildings, and other matters. This sparkling history enlightens and entertains.