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In the wake of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, the French emperor's imperious grip on Europe began to weaken, raising the question of how the continent was to be reconstructed after his defeat. While the Treaty of Paris that followed Napoleon's exile in 1814 put an end to a quarter century of revolution and war in Europe, it left the future of the continent In the wake of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, the French emperor's imperious grip on Europe began to weaken, raising the question of how the continent was to be reconstructed after his defeat. While the Treaty of Paris that followed Napoleon's exile in 1814 put an end to a quarter century of revolution and war in Europe, it left the future of the continent hanging in the balance. Eager to negotiate a workable and lasting peace, the major powers—Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia—along with a host of lesser nations, began a series of committee sessions in Vienna: an eight-month-long carnival that combined political negotiations with balls, dinners, artistic performances, hunts, tournaments, picnics, and other sundry forms of entertainment for the thousands of aristocrats who had gathered in the Austrian capital. Although the Congress of Vienna resulted in an unprecedented level of stability in Europe, the price of peace would be high. Many of the crucial questions were decided on the battlefield or in squalid roadside cottages amid the vagaries of war. And the proceedings in Vienna itself were not as decorous as is usually represented. Internationally bestselling author Adam Zamoyski draws on a wide range of original sources, which include not only official documents, private letters, diaries, and firsthand accounts, but also the reports of police spies and informers, to reveal the steamy atmosphere of greed and lust in which the new Europe was forged. Meticulously researched, masterfully told, and featuring a cast of some of the most influential and powerful figures in history, including Tsar Alexander, Metternich, Talleyrand, and the Duke of Wellington, Rites of Peace tells the story of these extraordinary events and their profound historical consequences.


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In the wake of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, the French emperor's imperious grip on Europe began to weaken, raising the question of how the continent was to be reconstructed after his defeat. While the Treaty of Paris that followed Napoleon's exile in 1814 put an end to a quarter century of revolution and war in Europe, it left the future of the continent In the wake of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, the French emperor's imperious grip on Europe began to weaken, raising the question of how the continent was to be reconstructed after his defeat. While the Treaty of Paris that followed Napoleon's exile in 1814 put an end to a quarter century of revolution and war in Europe, it left the future of the continent hanging in the balance. Eager to negotiate a workable and lasting peace, the major powers—Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia—along with a host of lesser nations, began a series of committee sessions in Vienna: an eight-month-long carnival that combined political negotiations with balls, dinners, artistic performances, hunts, tournaments, picnics, and other sundry forms of entertainment for the thousands of aristocrats who had gathered in the Austrian capital. Although the Congress of Vienna resulted in an unprecedented level of stability in Europe, the price of peace would be high. Many of the crucial questions were decided on the battlefield or in squalid roadside cottages amid the vagaries of war. And the proceedings in Vienna itself were not as decorous as is usually represented. Internationally bestselling author Adam Zamoyski draws on a wide range of original sources, which include not only official documents, private letters, diaries, and firsthand accounts, but also the reports of police spies and informers, to reveal the steamy atmosphere of greed and lust in which the new Europe was forged. Meticulously researched, masterfully told, and featuring a cast of some of the most influential and powerful figures in history, including Tsar Alexander, Metternich, Talleyrand, and the Duke of Wellington, Rites of Peace tells the story of these extraordinary events and their profound historical consequences.

30 review for Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    A great book of European History and the downfall of Napolean and the Congress of Vienna that followed. This is beautifully written and easy to follow in what is a mighty book. This book describes in detail the fallout from Napoleon invading Russia and retreating into exile. The depths that the Europeans will go to curtail the might of the French and all the various players trying to get a piece of the action.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ekul

    Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna is a vivid narrative history that examines international relations in Europe between 1813, after Napoleon’s invasion of Moscow, and 1815, with the establishment of a new international order after the Battle of Waterloo. In writing this work, Zamoyski underscores the importance of paranoia in the development of a new order: all European leaders in the Congress of Vienna were worried that they would be taken advantage of and find them Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna is a vivid narrative history that examines international relations in Europe between 1813, after Napoleon’s invasion of Moscow, and 1815, with the establishment of a new international order after the Battle of Waterloo. In writing this work, Zamoyski underscores the importance of paranoia in the development of a new order: all European leaders in the Congress of Vienna were worried that they would be taken advantage of and find themselves in an unfavorable situation in relation to other powers. Above all, actors in the Congress of Vienna were most anxious about the possibility of rising Austrian power. Further, Zamoyski argues against scholars like Joseph Schroeder and the famous Henry Kissinger, claiming that the Congress of Vienna did not lead to a century-long Pax Europaea. Although there were no major general European wars between 1815 and 1914, many European countries did participate in multifaceted conflicts like the Crimean War. Moreover, Zamoyski argues that it is unsurprising that Europe did not descend into a regional war in the nineteenth century, as most of the eighteenth century went without much in the way of regional wars. To Zamoyski, the Seven Years’ War is the eighteenth-century equivalent of the Crimean War in terms of scale. This does not seem thoroughly convincing. Moreover, Zamoyski lambasts the diplomats of the Congress of Vienna for being out of touch with rising ideological movements in Europe. As Zamoyski points out, apologists for those in the Congress tend to claim that there was no way for European leaders to gauge the rising tide of nationalism and liberalism. However, Zamoyski is correct to be unconvinced by these arguments, as discussions of nationalism (and, to lesser extent, liberalism) appear everywhere during the Napoleonic period. This movement was especially powerful in Germany, with the emerging popularity of the Romantics, and Spain. One primary weakness of this book is that the vast majority of the sources Zamoyski uses are rooted in high politics. Although these documents are essential to making sense of the Congress of Vienna, a far more interesting study would include how these politics reverberated on the ground among soldiers, workers, peasants, and more—if they did at all. Instead, Zamoyski chooses to look at state-building, borders, and discussions of succession. Naturally, these are important, but there must be more to the story than just these issues. In any case, Zamoyski’s book is highly readable, if a bit too focused. The study of Napoleon mentioned in the title is best understood as “Napoleonic Europe.” While he does appear, Napoleon the individual is not well studied (which I think is quite good!). As such, this book is best read as a work of general European history, rather than a study rooted in France.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    For two decades the scourge of the ancien régime Napoleon Bonaparte has been the fear and master of the crowned heads of Europe, but his attempt to add Russia to his list of conquests proved the beginning of his downfall. In December 1812 he was forced back to Paris in advance of his retreating army by the Russians, who as they advanced across Europe, turned his former allies Prussia, Austria, and the other German states into theirs. In April 1813 the allied armies joined by England and several For two decades the scourge of the ancien régime Napoleon Bonaparte has been the fear and master of the crowned heads of Europe, but his attempt to add Russia to his list of conquests proved the beginning of his downfall. In December 1812 he was forced back to Paris in advance of his retreating army by the Russians, who as they advanced across Europe, turned his former allies Prussia, Austria, and the other German states into theirs. In April 1813 the allied armies joined by England and several exiled kings arrived in Paris and forced Napoleon’s surrender. But months before the question of how to undo what revolutionary and then imperial France had done to Europe occupied the minds of the kings and their diplomats as much as defeating the French army. Following victory parades and triumphal visits they convened in the Austrian capital in 1814 to work out the details of the peace. They were filled with a hope for a lasting peace and the new ideal of international law. They even invited the defeated power, France, represented by newly restored monarchy to attend the Congress. Ironically the French ambassador, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, had previously done the same job for the last French ruler, Napoleon. The Congress with its multiple attending sovereigns immediately became the new center of European diplomacy and social life, compete with accompanying diversions. As the author puts it, “Perhaps the most striking aspect of the great charade known as the Congress of Vienna is the continuous interplay between the serious and the frivolous, an almost parasitical co-existence of activities which might appear to be mutually exclusive. The rattling of sabres and talk of blood mingled with the strains of the waltz and court gossip, and the most ridiculously trivial pursuits went hand in hand with impressive work.” Page 385 Zamoyski has plowed though voluminous official archives and memoirs of the participants to give a detailed, highly readable, account of the preparation for and the proceedings of the Congress, both official and social, followed by his own assessment of what it accomplished: consultation and cooperation between multiple states, what we would now call a Summit Meeting, as a means of resolving an international crisis, and what it failed to accomplish: a permanent peace and stable boundaries.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    This is a great book written by an historian who understands the era of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars as well anyone currently writing on the topic. To research this book, Zamoyski read all the relevant material in the French, English, Russian, German and Austrian archives. Thus he truly manages to take you into the minds of all the parties at the table. Zamoyski integrates all the material from the diplomatic sources with the police reports gathered by Metternich who hosted the c This is a great book written by an historian who understands the era of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars as well anyone currently writing on the topic. To research this book, Zamoyski read all the relevant material in the French, English, Russian, German and Austrian archives. Thus he truly manages to take you into the minds of all the parties at the table. Zamoyski integrates all the material from the diplomatic sources with the police reports gathered by Metternich who hosted the conference and who had spies following all the foreign ambassadors. As a result Zamoyski is able to integrate the politics of the bedroom that of the conference room better than any other historian since Tacitus. Having a connection to Poland, I heartily agree with Zamoyski that the 100 year peace which supposedly followed the Congress of Vienna is a myth. Europe was constantly at war during the period between the Congress of Vienna and the outbreak of World War I. The Congress of Vienna merely provided a structure whereby the Austrians and Russians maintained their tyrannical regimes in Central Europe while France and England maintained that all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Bravo Zamoyski. I hope your next book will arrive soon.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Avery

    A monumental book that accurately conveys the social sense of the Congress of Vienna with ample discussion of what came before and after it. The way in which the delegates manipulated each other through toying with women and personal affairs was fascinating. There was a regular Tale of Genji going on in Vienna. It was hardly a "Concert of Europe" so much as a cacophony, and it resulted in a France that was too small, a Germany too divided, and smaller nations dismantled, engendering nationalism A monumental book that accurately conveys the social sense of the Congress of Vienna with ample discussion of what came before and after it. The way in which the delegates manipulated each other through toying with women and personal affairs was fascinating. There was a regular Tale of Genji going on in Vienna. It was hardly a "Concert of Europe" so much as a cacophony, and it resulted in a France that was too small, a Germany too divided, and smaller nations dismantled, engendering nationalism and revolutions everywhere. This book is a bit too long and the details covered don't do a good job of proving the points the author wants to make. These are good points, though, and if you want a good summary of how the Congress of Vienna reflected dysfunctional behaviors in Europe, check out the concluding chapter.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    Zamoyski brilliantly conveys the utter chaos and indiscipline of the meetings as well as the behind-the-scenes politics of pre-Congress Europe. He also shows how lost and ignored people with "smaller" problems were--even if those "small" problems involved countries. All the leaders of the dominant countries had smaller places which they wanted to use for one reason or another--bribery, blackmail, etc. Zamoyski brilliantly conveys the utter chaos and indiscipline of the meetings as well as the behind-the-scenes politics of pre-Congress Europe. He also shows how lost and ignored people with "smaller" problems were--even if those "small" problems involved countries. All the leaders of the dominant countries had smaller places which they wanted to use for one reason or another--bribery, blackmail, etc.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Terry Quirke

    Well written and easy to follow considering it involves numerous personalities and intrigues following Napoleons retreat from Moscow, his exile to Elba, the mechanations leading to the Vienna Congress, Napoleons escape back to France and the culmination of Waterloo and the final Treaty of Paris. Although Napoleon is a central figure in all this he actually lurks largely in the background with the concentration of the book on the allies bickering and infighting over the spoils and trying to turn Well written and easy to follow considering it involves numerous personalities and intrigues following Napoleons retreat from Moscow, his exile to Elba, the mechanations leading to the Vienna Congress, Napoleons escape back to France and the culmination of Waterloo and the final Treaty of Paris. Although Napoleon is a central figure in all this he actually lurks largely in the background with the concentration of the book on the allies bickering and infighting over the spoils and trying to turn the clock back to the ancien regimes and total monarchy. If your interested in this tumultuous period of history then Zamoysku does an admirable job of presenting it all in a very readable manner.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bas Kreuger

    Zamoyski is a gifted writer, mixing grand histoire with the daily life and petty quibbles between the key players of the Vienna Congres. If you want to learn how the fate of Europe was decided (partly) in the ballrooms and boudoirs of Vienna in 1814 - 1815, read this book. How personalities like Tsar Alexander, Count Metternich, Hardenberg and others influenced the outcome of the congres and the way Europe was shaped after Napoleons defeat at Leipzig and specially after his escape from Elba and W Zamoyski is a gifted writer, mixing grand histoire with the daily life and petty quibbles between the key players of the Vienna Congres. If you want to learn how the fate of Europe was decided (partly) in the ballrooms and boudoirs of Vienna in 1814 - 1815, read this book. How personalities like Tsar Alexander, Count Metternich, Hardenberg and others influenced the outcome of the congres and the way Europe was shaped after Napoleons defeat at Leipzig and specially after his escape from Elba and Waterloo. A new reactionairy Europe evolved that tried to hide the revolutionary and later liberal gains of the French Revolution and Napoleon by stiffling all initiative for more freedom. In vain, as the revolutions of 1848 showed. At Vienna they created big nations who would fight over Europe in the century to come: Prussia, Austria, and Russia, together with the UK and France. Some of their descisions influenced history hundred years and more later; bringing the southern Netherlands to the (new) Kingdom of the Netherlands as a buffer against France. Later this became Belgium and it gave the Germans twice the opportunity to attack Francee through a neutral corridor in 1914 and 1940.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joel Corney

    As good read - I was left wanting more, even after 650 pages.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Neil

    Rites of Peace is a spiritual successor to Zamoyski's previous book, which focussed on the 1812 invasion of Russia. This follows on from that campaign, with the fall of Napoleon and the bids by the four main powers to carve up Europe for their own benefit. Like its predecessor, Rites of Peace is a meticulously well-researched and hugely impressive book, detailing in-depth the days following Napoleon's defeat in Russia and his eventual capture, to the numerous congresses and treaties which occu Rites of Peace is a spiritual successor to Zamoyski's previous book, which focussed on the 1812 invasion of Russia. This follows on from that campaign, with the fall of Napoleon and the bids by the four main powers to carve up Europe for their own benefit. Like its predecessor, Rites of Peace is a meticulously well-researched and hugely impressive book, detailing in-depth the days following Napoleon's defeat in Russia and his eventual capture, to the numerous congresses and treaties which occurred thereafter to create a lasting peace on the continent, to Napoleon's escape from Elba and the final treaties thereafter. It brings together hundreds of unseen accounts, letters, diaries and official, papers, creating a vivid and eminently human account of the final years of the Napoleonic wars and their lasting effect on the continent. Rites of Peace is an enormous book, and for the most part its pace and fascinating detail let those pages fly by: where it stumbles, as negotiations grind to a halt and the same propositions about Poland are passed back and forward endlessly, the problems cannot be attributed to the book but to history. This dip in excitement is only brief however, as Napoleon then escapes and forces a collaboration that would never have occurred otherwise. That dip aside, the book is full of fascinating and personal details about all the major players of the day - Castlereagh, Metternich, Tallyrand, Alexander and a host of others - their romantic lives, personal dealings and general thoughts about one another. It is an incredibly well-done book, leading readers to understand thoroughly the society and events of the time, creating a vivid world which we feel we have lived through as the Congress continues. The book's greatest achievement, however, only comes about in the last few pages. While most historical writers would give only a few pages over to the ramifications of their subject matter, and how it affected history, Zamoyski provides serious, in-depth and thought-provoking analysis of Vienna's ramifications, not only in the next few years but over all the years to the present, how the Congress was viewed and what impact it had on other peace negotiations. More strikingly, Zamoyski manages to wholly shift the dimensions of the book in these last few moments, changing our viewpoint to look not at these men as fascinating, witty, funny and odd individuals who all had a part to play in a great and momentous event, but almost as the villains of the peace. We are reminded suddenly that these men were, almost wholly, reactionaries and hard conservatives who did what they did not to save lives or protect Europe but to defend the ancient regime, to oppress the poor and keep their own class firmly in power. As we are given an overview of the rest of their lives and their many dubious achievements, we see the Congress as we have not before seen it: as the work of a few men to control the many, and keep the old order going in the face of mounting resistance. This is an exceptional book, vivid and rigorous from start to finish, which is a treat for Napoleonic veterans and interested amateurs alike.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lillian

    This book was a thorough examination of the Vienna Congress, with just enough levity to carry it through the dryest parts. However, I have a long-time interest in the Vienna Congress, and I think that to casual observers this book would be rather dry. I did also find some factual errors: for example, there was a really bizarre constant defamation of Frederick I of Wurttenberg, who was claimed to be, in this book, five feet tall and "six feet in circumference." Considering how unlikely this was, This book was a thorough examination of the Vienna Congress, with just enough levity to carry it through the dryest parts. However, I have a long-time interest in the Vienna Congress, and I think that to casual observers this book would be rather dry. I did also find some factual errors: for example, there was a really bizarre constant defamation of Frederick I of Wurttenberg, who was claimed to be, in this book, five feet tall and "six feet in circumference." Considering how unlikely this was, when I looked it up I found out he'd been six-foot eleven and a little over four hundred pounds, which is not that much when distributed on the frame of a major league baskerball player. Combined with how often Frederick I was called "pig-like" and "corpulent" and how much Zamoyski described his "rolls of fat," at every opportunity (not to mention that he was the only historical figure he made a point to hint at being gay), it really felt unnecessary and unprofessional. Did Frederick I give Zamoyski a wedgie in high school? Did Fred shove Zamoyski in a locker? I just don't get it, and it makes me distrust a lot of the more entertaining information in the novel. The charm of the Vienna Congress is in its excesses and its gossip, but Zamoyski would skim over events like Beethoven's last concerts or the suicide of Castlereagh when The author also fell into the tropes of portraying women as either vixens or virgins, and it got very old very fast. Unfortunately, the only information I felt I could trust was the diplomatic events, and even my eyes tire of reading chapter after chapter of Prussia demanding Saxony from Austria and Britain demanding Belgium as a neutral zone and Russia demanding Poland from everyone. Don't get me wrong, it's a good book, but I had some very particular issues with it. However, the final chapter made some excellent points about the events that reshaped, in some way, my opinions about all the participants...with the exception of Talleyrand. Talleyrand is always an exception. If you love the Congress of Vienna and have to know more, check it out. If you love fun history, read Vienna 1814: How the Conquerers of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna instead.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Meyer

    The Congress of Vienna is one of the defining moments in European History. Trying to put together a world absolutely shattered by Napoleonic France was a feat which presented itself to the allied nations at the end of Napoleon's reign. The narrative begins with Napoleon reeling back from his invasion of Russia in 1812 & Tsar Alexander's decision to cross the Neiman River into Prussia, carrying the war all the way to Paris. Zamoyski pays detail to the various backdoor politicking among the allied The Congress of Vienna is one of the defining moments in European History. Trying to put together a world absolutely shattered by Napoleonic France was a feat which presented itself to the allied nations at the end of Napoleon's reign. The narrative begins with Napoleon reeling back from his invasion of Russia in 1812 & Tsar Alexander's decision to cross the Neiman River into Prussia, carrying the war all the way to Paris. Zamoyski pays detail to the various backdoor politicking among the allied ministers for the new world to be shaped into, particularly the futures of Germany & Poland. Although there is a large cast of characters, each getting their moments to bask in the sunlight. Zamoyski focuses on the four key players in the drama at Vienna: Klemons von Metternich, the Architect of the Congress & the Foreign Minister of Austria who looms so important that the entire era is named after him; Viscount Castleraegh, the British Foreign Minister who wanted to piece Europe together to prevent France from ever dominating the continent again; Tsar Alexander I of Russia, the religious megalomaniac whose stubbornness over the future of Poland threatened to upend the entire peace settlement; and finally Talleyrand, the astute French diplomat who tactically exploited the divisions in the allies to insert France into the peacemaking process before it all came crashing down with Napoleon's 100 days. While politics & worldbuilding was the goals of the Congress of Vienna, partying was a side hustle for the members. Zamoyski also delves into the soap opera-esqe world of Vienna where balls & parties coincided with arguments & threats all wrapped into one. The allied leaders always seemed to have a diplomatic paper in one hand & a woman in another. One particular moment I found fascinating was Tsar Alexander intervening & attempting to sleep with one of Metternich's mistresses, a plot line taken right out of any Soap Opera. While the entire book reads like a riveting drama. Zamoyski also makes claims about the Congress of Vienna that run up against admirers of the Concert such as Henry Kissinger. He argues that the Congress of Vienna was not the bulwark for 100 years of peace in Europe, but fear of Revolution & the disillusion with war were the primary drivers. Bottom line, if you are into high political drama, backroom politicking, political intrigue, soap opera-esqe drama, bedroom politics, and wanting to know about the modern world during the Congress of Vienna. Look no further than Zamoyski's masterpiece.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Wilcox

    For anyone who has studied the European"Great Powers" and the influence on the international stage, the Congress of Vienna is often portrayed as the birth of a new system of international politics, and thus an area of interest. Zamoyski's work provides an excellent and detailed overview of how the European powers - Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia - attempted to bring peace to Europe following the first and second falls of Napoleon. Zamoyski's work is rich in the examining the complexities o For anyone who has studied the European"Great Powers" and the influence on the international stage, the Congress of Vienna is often portrayed as the birth of a new system of international politics, and thus an area of interest. Zamoyski's work provides an excellent and detailed overview of how the European powers - Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia - attempted to bring peace to Europe following the first and second falls of Napoleon. Zamoyski's work is rich in the examining the complexities of territorial alternations and disputes, the questions of Poland, the settlement for post-Imperial Germany and the future of France, alongside a plethora of other issues ranging from convincing Denmark to part with Norway so Sweden would accept Russian control of Finland to what to do with Joachim Murat and Eugene de Beauharnais. Zamoyski does an excellent job of providing a detailed and understandable overview, rich with the political and personal intrigues of the time whilst also leaving space for personal tales of love and loss (for many of the key actors seemed to have countless affairs with any women they could, many of whom they ended up sharing affections with), which helps key his account of the Congress of Vienna both interesting and entertaining.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    A riveting account of Napoleon's downfall and ensuing negotiations over how the great powers of Europe could divide up Europe. Its a book that doesn't miss any details and manages to make most of these details feel important. From the personal predilections of the negotiators to their various mistresses, everything goes under a microscope. But above all else, Zamoyski clearly shows how out of touch all of these men were. They completely ignored changes that had rocked Europe, and in their attemp A riveting account of Napoleon's downfall and ensuing negotiations over how the great powers of Europe could divide up Europe. Its a book that doesn't miss any details and manages to make most of these details feel important. From the personal predilections of the negotiators to their various mistresses, everything goes under a microscope. But above all else, Zamoyski clearly shows how out of touch all of these men were. They completely ignored changes that had rocked Europe, and in their attempts to turn back the clock, they only served to strengthen those forces that would bring radical change to Europe.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David

    Zamoyski does a commendable job of presenting the meandering bureaucratic tug-of-war that followed the fall of Napoleon as the major allied forces (Britain, Russia, Prussia, Austria) converged on Vienna and decided how to carve up Europe. The text is never dry, if only because Zamoyski covers the fancies, affairs, and dalliances of the major players as thoroughly as the political maneuvering - though this does descend into gossip at times.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Arnout Brokking

    Utterly compelling. An account of a real soap opera. Whenever you think that they don't make politicians like they used to anymore, remember Metternich missed crucial meetings because he was writing stalkery love letters to his mistress who had just dumped him to have a fling with the czar of Russia, and the whole of Vienna was sick of the heads of state acting like partying dicks by the end. Utterly compelling. An account of a real soap opera. Whenever you think that they don't make politicians like they used to anymore, remember Metternich missed crucial meetings because he was writing stalkery love letters to his mistress who had just dumped him to have a fling with the czar of Russia, and the whole of Vienna was sick of the heads of state acting like partying dicks by the end.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    It's quite possible this is a well-researched and sophisticated telling of the events. I have no idea. But it reads to someone unfamiliar with the period like a book report, and not a very good one. Absolutely zero big picture explanation, no contextualization. Just 'this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened' for 600 pages. It's quite possible this is a well-researched and sophisticated telling of the events. I have no idea. But it reads to someone unfamiliar with the period like a book report, and not a very good one. Absolutely zero big picture explanation, no contextualization. Just 'this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened' for 600 pages.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rob Markley

    Disappointing and a hard read. Lacked any big picture view and made very firm judgements on far too many of the central characters without really being convincing... got the sense of revisionist history lurking here, but can't be sure as I don't know my German and Russian Napoleonics well enough Disappointing and a hard read. Lacked any big picture view and made very firm judgements on far too many of the central characters without really being convincing... got the sense of revisionist history lurking here, but can't be sure as I don't know my German and Russian Napoleonics well enough

  19. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I am finally finished with this! It was very well researched and written, but I have to admit that I got a bit tired of it. Every possible detail of the Congress of Vienna was explored. Very thorough.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    An interesting and captivating read. However, some of Zamoyski's end conclusions seem to stretch the historical evidence he has marshalled. He assumes his hindsight should have been the foresight possessed by the participants in the Congress. An interesting and captivating read. However, some of Zamoyski's end conclusions seem to stretch the historical evidence he has marshalled. He assumes his hindsight should have been the foresight possessed by the participants in the Congress.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robbert Verheul

    Clear overview of an interesting period that shaped European history. I missed some historical depth in the whole story.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Timons Esaias

    Having read two books (Went the Day Well? and Waterloo: The Aftermath) on Waterloo, and two books on the Franco-Prussian war, comparatively recently, it was time to read a book about the Congress of Vienna. The truth is that there are not many books about the Congress of Vienna, which is why Zamoyski took the subject up. The tale is confused and sordid, and I'm quite glad to have read it. Authors have a tendency -- deliberate or inadvertent -- to place a thematic paragraph in just about the middl Having read two books (Went the Day Well? and Waterloo: The Aftermath) on Waterloo, and two books on the Franco-Prussian war, comparatively recently, it was time to read a book about the Congress of Vienna. The truth is that there are not many books about the Congress of Vienna, which is why Zamoyski took the subject up. The tale is confused and sordid, and I'm quite glad to have read it. Authors have a tendency -- deliberate or inadvertent -- to place a thematic paragraph in just about the middle of the book. I ran across a paragraph that felt like that, checked the page count, and yep, it's four pages from dead center: "Gentz was in despair. 'I do not dare to say, and nobody would at this point, what will be the precise result of this ill-conceived, miscalculated, poorly prepared congress, which I have no hesitation in regarding as one of the worst projects of this great epoch,' he wrote on 6 October, 'but what I believe to be a certainty is that it will produce none of the advantages which Europe has had the good will to expect of its coming together.'" And that sorta covers it. The Congress -- which had a slightly amorphous existence (representatives coming and going, gaining and losing a say in the outcome) and its Final Act came just before Waterloo, and facts on the ground soon negated some of its provisions -- started as an attempt by the victorious countries to sort out the post-Napoleon Europe after he was defeated in 1814. That's the first abdication. So they park him on Elba, and try to organize a discussion. First it's in Paris, then it moves to Vienna, and they can't get anything done. They argue, they dither, and meanwhile they worry about Napoleon. Some of them start thinking that it's risky having him on an island in Europe; that it's risky even having him alive. There's talk of having him killed. The talk is published in the newspapers, and the newspapers are delivered to Elba. Presto, chango, Napoleon is back in France, and the war starts over again. But the diplomats keep diplomating, and generate bundles of different treaties, which are then bound together in a Final Act. After Napoleon is in British hands, he's hauled off to St. Helena, which they'd been thinking about putting him on before he broke out from Elba. And then, of course, some of the treaties unravel. Zamoyski doesn't confine himself to what the men are doing. There were influential women who effected events, as well. The Tsar's sister, Grand Duchess Catherine; Napoleon's wife; a whole slew of mistresses, some of whom would apparently sleep with the entire cast of male characters. One problem I had with the text was that in his discussion of Wellington's "Waterloo Despatch" he gives the clear impression that Wellington took all the credit and ignored the contribution of Blücher and the Prussians. I do not know what he is talking about. The Despatch is a report of the Allied Army under Wellington, not of the combined armies, because, among other reasons, it was written before the staffs could possibly have exchanged information. It directly asserts that the crucial element to the victory was the Prussian flank attack. What more, exactly, could be expected??? The thing that's weird about the Despatch (see Paul O'Keeffe's Waterloo: The Aftermath) is that Wellington neglected to actually claim a victory, so when the thing was first read, after midnight in London many, many hours later, the Cabinet and the Regent had to ask the messenger for clarification as to the actual extent of the damage inflicted on the French. The thing focuses rather closely on the Allied dead. [With hindsight, you realize that the 'attack succeeding at all points' is a crushing defeat. But it could be read as a mere setback for Napoleon.]

  23. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    The wealth of detail in Adam Zamoyski's account of the Congress of Vienna - drawn from offical records, private diaries and letters, and even secret police reports! - ever threatens to overwhelm the flow of his narrative, but the attentive reader emerges with a rich portrait of the proceedings. The Congress of Vienna established the idea and practice of consulting and cooperation among European nations, put the notion of the rights of people and nations on the agenda of European leaders, and brou The wealth of detail in Adam Zamoyski's account of the Congress of Vienna - drawn from offical records, private diaries and letters, and even secret police reports! - ever threatens to overwhelm the flow of his narrative, but the attentive reader emerges with a rich portrait of the proceedings. The Congress of Vienna established the idea and practice of consulting and cooperation among European nations, put the notion of the rights of people and nations on the agenda of European leaders, and brought a modest stability (marked by violent conflict within and between nations as well as colonial abuses, the resulting order cannot justly be described as a peace) that allowed political order and the growth of public institutions, as well as scientific and economic development through the end of the 19th century. But it was a bit of a circus. The influence of liberal political ideas of Enlightenment thinkers, which had become linked in most minds with the anarchic and despotic tyrannies of French revolutionaries and of Napoleon, provoked anxieties of all kinds that played out in all kinds of ways. Professedly liberal regimes, such as Britain's, became repressive under the stress of those times. Leaders upon whose dignity and integrity much depended indulged in or abandoned themselves to embarrassing and petty behaviors. Zamoyski offers countless and varied examples of how all the key players somehow lost their way in those times of extraordinary dislocation and transition. American leaders could profit today from studying the British experience as a world superpower - with unrivaled sea power, comparatively liberal institutions, and a sense of moral purpose on the world stage - trying to shepherd the world toward peace on their terms. The British in the early 19th century had no international institutions to work through, so a "coalition of the willing" was their only recourse. The result was much groping and blundering, more often toward a way out than toward a way forward. After two centuries of building international institutions since the Congress of Vienna, need we have returned to that unpromising strategy? What motives have led us to undermine hard-won forums for international dialogue and cooperation? (For exploring such questions, "Rites of Peace" is well supplemented by Arthur Herman's "To Rule The Waves.")

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    In this book, Adam Zamoyski goes into an occasionally almost bewildering level of detail when recounting Napoleon's final days on the battlefield and the Congress of Vienna that follows in 1814. The incredible amount of intrigue during the difficult negotations to establish some new form of peace and order in Europe after decades of upheaval between the various countries (particularly Great Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia and other German states and France) can make this an intimidating book, In this book, Adam Zamoyski goes into an occasionally almost bewildering level of detail when recounting Napoleon's final days on the battlefield and the Congress of Vienna that follows in 1814. The incredible amount of intrigue during the difficult negotations to establish some new form of peace and order in Europe after decades of upheaval between the various countries (particularly Great Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia and other German states and France) can make this an intimidating book, but in my opinion, Zamoyski manages to remain just clear and concise enough to avoid making this an absolute snorefest. Moreover, having read an enormous variation of sources in various languages, Zamoyski is privy to a lot of fascinating personal details of the different players (like the increasingly bizarre behaviour of Tsar Alexander I of Russia, the ill-fated love-life of Austrian diplomat Metternich and the amazing shrewdness of his French counterpart, Talleyrand). It's these little details and other sidetrips that Zamoyski makes that really lets the Congress of Vienna come to life for the reader, while we never really lose track of the major negotations and other important events of the time. I also particularly enjoyed the final chapter, throughout which Zamoyski very effectively summarises the events of the years and centuries to come as well as the role that the Congress of Vienna ultimately played in European history: it was not a wonderful place where a new century of peace was begun, but an opportunity for the triumphant, vested powers of Europe to re-establish their supremacy and attempt to squash any liberal legacy of the French Revolution. This book is not exactly light reading, but still fascinating: it's a story of real history done well and real history is 'Game of Thrones' for experts.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Crouch

    The failed invasion of Russia by Napoleon and the subsequent collapse and dismantling of his Empire encompass both this book and Zamoyski's last effort, Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March, and the material in question probably does demand two full books' worth of exploration. However, "Rites of Peace" has inevitably to pale in comparison to "Moscow 1812", which like many a great novel features a clear narrative thrust, a climax, and an epilogue. "Rites of Peace" has none of those, and could be The failed invasion of Russia by Napoleon and the subsequent collapse and dismantling of his Empire encompass both this book and Zamoyski's last effort, Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March, and the material in question probably does demand two full books' worth of exploration. However, "Rites of Peace" has inevitably to pale in comparison to "Moscow 1812", which like many a great novel features a clear narrative thrust, a climax, and an epilogue. "Rites of Peace" has none of those, and could be crudely reduced to merely a chain of sequential (sometimes consequential), albeit important, events. What it does have going for it is a set of interesting political players, a charming preoccupation with the usually trivial sexual dalliances and liaisons enjoyed by those players, and a historian who clearly understands the wildly disparate motivations of these players united for the most part only by their common desire to end Napoleon's dominance of Europe and restore some kind of balance of power. How much "blame" does Zamoyski deserve for the nature of his subject matter, a period of time and a series of events that by fact of history lacks the dramatic punch of "Moscow 1812"? Considering the relative dearth of material exploring the Vienna conference, it was a book that ought to have been written, and it does prove a valuable follow-up to "Moscow: 1812", but I would suggest reading that first.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Rites of Peace follows the diplomatic movements from Napoleon’s retreat from Russia through the Congress of Vienna with some quick snapshots of major diplomatic incidents in the following years. Zamoyski once again displays his mastery of that time period with an engaging read that keeps the story moving forward and shows the struggle between Talleyrand, Metternich, and Tsar Alexander. The pageantry of all European Monarchs gathering in once place was done nicely as was the juicy gossip of diplo Rites of Peace follows the diplomatic movements from Napoleon’s retreat from Russia through the Congress of Vienna with some quick snapshots of major diplomatic incidents in the following years. Zamoyski once again displays his mastery of that time period with an engaging read that keeps the story moving forward and shows the struggle between Talleyrand, Metternich, and Tsar Alexander. The pageantry of all European Monarchs gathering in once place was done nicely as was the juicy gossip of diplomacy from the mistresses to the parties. It is an all-encompassing book not told just from the perspective of one country but jumps from one camp to the other so the reader does need to pay careful attention particularly when looking at the smaller Prussian and German principalities. Overall this is a well thought out book on a part of Napoleonic history that is often an afterthought or glossed over when it is not ignored altogether. Well worth the time for those interested in the fall out of Napoleon and how that shaped the course of European history with a new diplomatic paradigm.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    This book is mainly about the 1815 Congress of Vienna, at which there was some frenetic diplomacy, a lot of fornication, and an amazing amount of dancing. Again, it is the stories that are fascinating; such as the Austrian secret police report on one of the British delegates, which noted that he, a friend and some very loose women had taken a Viennese house and 'turned it into a f---ing-shop'. Zamoyski casts a caustic eye on these and other shenanigans, and shows how Waterloo and The Hundred Day This book is mainly about the 1815 Congress of Vienna, at which there was some frenetic diplomacy, a lot of fornication, and an amazing amount of dancing. Again, it is the stories that are fascinating; such as the Austrian secret police report on one of the British delegates, which noted that he, a friend and some very loose women had taken a Viennese house and 'turned it into a f---ing-shop'. Zamoyski casts a caustic eye on these and other shenanigans, and shows how Waterloo and The Hundred Days was all Tsar Alexander's fault (because he was an impulsive fathead, and set Napoleon up in Elba without consulting any of his allies first); how the British claim to be the disinterested brokers of Europe was so much humbug; and chiefly, how desperately tawdry and cynical the whole business was. The fascinating cast includes, besides Alexander, sliding from swollen-headed arrogance to religious mania, Napoleon, Wellington, Metternich, Castlereagh, Beethoven, Blucher and an assortment of ladies of dubious virtue.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    As my Paris 1919 review indicates, I prefer the chronological approach that Zamoyski takes here. Despite the overwhelming complexity of the diplomatic maneuvering, we are better able to understand why certain compromises were reached when we see the multitude of disputes being negotiated simultaneously. That said, Zamoyski doesn't dig very deep here, preferring to go for "book report" history. This happened, then this happened, then this happened. I appreciate the attention given to the personal As my Paris 1919 review indicates, I prefer the chronological approach that Zamoyski takes here. Despite the overwhelming complexity of the diplomatic maneuvering, we are better able to understand why certain compromises were reached when we see the multitude of disputes being negotiated simultaneously. That said, Zamoyski doesn't dig very deep here, preferring to go for "book report" history. This happened, then this happened, then this happened. I appreciate the attention given to the personal lives of the negotiators (when Tsar Alexander stole Metternich's mistress, there were obviously diplomatic consequences) but, for the most part, statecraft and bedroom activity are not very effectively integrated, and titillation seems to be the most common goal for the inclusion of some of the (admittedly amusing) anecdotes. Better than Kissinger's book (really, his doctoral thesis) on the topic.

  29. 5 out of 5

    chris

    An interesting account of the infamous Congree of Vienna. The author portays the main movers as real humans, with their flaws and agenda's, such as Alexander I of Russia. The Czar an idealistic, lady's man, who threatened war when he couldn't get his own way, was a devout spiritualist, religious and above all a reactionary, who believed himself to be a reformists, but only outside Russia. The conclusion is interesting and places the Congress at the heart of the next century's troubles. Prussia, An interesting account of the infamous Congree of Vienna. The author portays the main movers as real humans, with their flaws and agenda's, such as Alexander I of Russia. The Czar an idealistic, lady's man, who threatened war when he couldn't get his own way, was a devout spiritualist, religious and above all a reactionary, who believed himself to be a reformists, but only outside Russia. The conclusion is interesting and places the Congress at the heart of the next century's troubles. Prussia, a country that according to the author was petrified of slipping back into a minor power status, recieved a large ammount of teritory on the Rhine. Between Prussia was the rest of Germany, which at the time the Prussians declared they'd shallow up the states seperating Prussia's two half's. A fantastic book....

  30. 5 out of 5

    Windsor

    Basically this is a book of what now? A very interesting study of the panic of the Napoleonic aftermath and who is to blame. Also a good study of how Metternich is the boss of the aftermath. Europe really did panic to the point of Metternich threatening to bring Napoleon back to France to get the Allies to listen to each other. Russia more so is considered the "badguy" in this scenario, sometimes even more than France. Alexander's ability to see his "Liberator of Europe" status goes to his head Basically this is a book of what now? A very interesting study of the panic of the Napoleonic aftermath and who is to blame. Also a good study of how Metternich is the boss of the aftermath. Europe really did panic to the point of Metternich threatening to bring Napoleon back to France to get the Allies to listen to each other. Russia more so is considered the "badguy" in this scenario, sometimes even more than France. Alexander's ability to see his "Liberator of Europe" status goes to his head at some stages when he, in a very bullheaded manner, demands sections of Poland just for the fact that Russia suffered so much, taking not into account even Austria or Prussia, who were at stages occupied and humiliated politically, militarily and financially. Extremely well written. Almost like a textbook.

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