Pimlico £14.99 (339pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 08430 600 030
The Enemy at the Gate, By Andrew Wheatcroft
Friday 21 August 2009
This superb narrative concerns the last large-scale Muslim assault on the West. It took place in 1683 when Mehmed IV led his fearsome troops from Istanbul in an assault on Vienna.
Fuelled on an "excellent diet" of soup, equipped with personally tailored weaponry (the French called the Turkish hand-held bombs "grenades" due to their resemblance to pomegranates), the Sultan's janissaries specialised in the lethal charge. "Once launched, [it] could not be recalled."
Their primary allegiance to God rather than the Sultan was both a strength and a weakness. This essentially medieval army encountered modernity in the disciplined regiments and artillery commanded by the wily, unostentatious Duke of Lorraine. The tumultuous clash of religions make a terrific story, impeccably related by Wheatcroft.
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