Published by : Jonathan Cape, 2002
In order to present a portrait of Central Europe, from AD 1000 to the present, Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse study the history of one of its main cities - Breslau. Breslau, the traditional capital of Silesia, was one of the great commercial cities of medieval Europe. It later became the second city of the kingdom of Bohemia, a major city of the Habsburg lands, and a Residenzstadt of the kingdom of Prussia. The third largest German city of the mid-nineteenth century, Breslau's population reached one million in 1945. But in May 1945 the city of Breslau was annihilated by the Soviet Red Army. Much of it was destroyed, thousands of its inhabitants were killed. Breslau surrendered four days after Berlin and was thus the last Fortress of the Reich to fall, and, indeed, one of the very last areas in Germany to surrender.
Transferred to Poland after the war, the city has risen from the ruins of the war and is once again a thriving economic and cultural centre of the region. The history of Silesia's main city embodies all the experiences which have made Central Europe what it is - the rich mixture of nationalities and cultures; the German settlement and 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.
"This big, lucidly written and fact-filled book admirably achieves its purpose... Anyone who enjoyed Norman Davies's...The Isles will recognise the same qualities in this book: a gift for broad exposition, a marvellous eye for quirky but revelatory details, and, above all, a willingness to question the categories of traditional history, wherever they may come from."
(Noel Malcolm Sunday Telegraph)
"Absorbing...clear...and persuasive...as even-handed, erudite and enlightening as history can be."
"Microcosm tells the story of the city across the centuries. While not neglecting ethnic hatred and folly, the book is a hymn to diversity and cultural achievement."
"The city is fortunate to have found such chroniclers as Davies and Roger Moorhouse."