The Crossroads of Civilization: A History of Vienna

Pegasus. Aug. 2022. 464p. ISBN 9781639361953. $29.95. HIST
Scottish government figure Robertson’s first book is a comprehensive history of Vienna, the city where he worked for over a decade as a journalist. Tracing the evolution of the city from its origins as a Roman military camp, Robertson depicts Vienna as a resilient survivor, enduring invasions, wars, and fortunes that shifted with every change to Austria’s political structure. The city’s history is inextricable from that of the Habsburg dynasty, and Robertson devotes considerable attention to the family’s role in European power struggles and to the successes and failures of individual rulers. Drawing on the writings of diplomats and their families, Robertson paints a vivid picture of the glittering social swirl of the Imperial court and the ways in which Vienna influenced—and was influenced by—composers and artists like Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and Klimt. In recounting the upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries, Robertson highlights Vienna’s role as a mediator between east and west, a haven for both refugees and spies.
VERDICT Robertson packs so much history onto every page that casual readers may feel overwhelmed, but serious scholars of Viennese or European history could hardly find a more thorough resource.
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