Review: Metternich, Desmond Seward

Rating: 3 out of 5

Metternich is a name that strikes horror and fear into the hearts of many. Yet, beyond the classic “Metternich — Mitternacht” and other similar horror stories lies a man who was successful because of hard work and clear perception. I was very keen to read more about this person because of these attributes. In the end, though I learned much, the book didn’t live up to my expectations of a biography.

Mr Seward has clearly read the other works written about Metternich. Yet, there seemed to be too little of a reliance on primary sources, especially where the author tried to refute what other historians were saying. This left the reader reading statements that A was wrong about this and B about that, but the reasoning why they had been wrong was never explored

Mostly this comes down to the fact that Mr Seward went for a fairly light approach, a book that would state but not reason. In only a few select instances is this trend bucked, and the most prominent of these is the original coronation ceremony of Francis which is probably also described in many other, more apposite tomes. Nearly every other event, if it does get mentioned by a primary source, is mentioned in a passing half-sentence, often taken from British newspapers.

Yet, as I said above, I learned plenty from this book — but my general hope for a biography is to learn nearly all there is or at least to see the potential for doing so in that book. This is not the case here.

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