The story of Central Europe is anything but simple. As the region located between East and West, it has always been endowed with a rich variety of migrants, and has repeatedly been the scene of nomadic invasions, mixed settlements and military conquests. In order to present a portrait of Central Europe, Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse have made a case study of one of its most colourful cities, the former German Breslau, which became the Polish Wroclaw after the Second World War. The traditional capital of the province of Silesia rose to prominence a thousand years ago as a trading centre and bishopric in Piast Poland. It became the second city of the kingdom of Bohemia, a major municipality of the Habsburg lands, and then a Residenzstadt of the kingdom of Prussia. The third largest city of nineteenth-century Germany, its population reached one million before the bitter siege by the Soviet Army in 1945 wrought almost total destruction. Since then Wroclaw has risen from the ruins of war and is once again a thriving regional centre. The history of Silesia's main city is more than a fascinating tale in its own right.
It embodies all the experiences which have made Central Europe what it is - a rich mixture of nationalities and cultures; the scene of German settlement and of the reflux of the Slavs; a Jewish presence of exceptional distinction; a turbulent succession of imperial rulers; and the shattering exposure to both Nazis and Stalinists. In short, it is a Central European microcosm.
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(234mm x 153mm x 43mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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UK Kirkus Review »
Norman Davies's dogged efforts to convince us to stop seeing Europe in terms of 'the artificial division' between East and West resulted in this historical survey of the Silesian city of Wroclaw. That he is neither German nor Polish made him perfect for the part, according to the city's President, who cajoled him into taking on the task. From prehistoric origins as a settlement on the banks of the Oder through Mongol invasions and its days as a major Bohemian city, Wroclaw has attracted cultures and nationalities such as Jews, Slavs and Germans. All are given space here, their stories enhanced by the marvellous illustrations that accompany the text. Central Europe's importance during Germany's 19th-century ascendancy gives way to the effect of the hunger for expansion shared by Third Reich 'lebensraum' and Stalin's view of all points west as potentially his. As a consequence, the mid-20th century could only look bleak for 'the lands between' these two enormous powers. As Breslau, the city was the last bastion of Nazi Germany to fall in 1945, and utter devastation was wreaked on its people. Their sense of panic is empathetically portrayed through newspaper headlines and diary extracts telling of refugees trudging through sub-zero temperatures. They were the lucky ones, for the city struggled through a grim 80-day siege before finally falling to the Soviets four days after Berlin. Wroclaw - one of up to 50 names recorded throughout the city's history - does indeed provide the perfect microcosm of Central Europe. And by bravely throwing their study open to as many perspectives as possible, Davies and his co-author Roger Moorehouse have produced a hefty, detailed piece of research that doubles as a fond tribute to the city, whatever its name might be at this point in history. As absorbing as it is educational. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Norman Davies
Norman Davies C. M. G., F. B. A. is a Professor Emeritus of the University of London, a Supernumerary Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, and the author of several books on Polish and European history, including God's Playground, Europe and The Isles. Roger Moorhouse, who is a Germanist and historian, was chief researcher on Davies's previous books. Since Microcosm he has published two solo books: Killing Hitler and, most recently, Berlin at War. He is a regular contributor to the BBC History Magazine and History Today, a book reviewer for the Independent on Sunday, and an occasional commentator on television and radio