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Vienna: Empire, Dynasty and Dream archive

Simon Sebag Montefiore tells the story of how the Habsburg family transformed Vienna into the capital that it is today, during a dynasty era lasting nearly 1,000 years.

  • Updated Tuesday 26th September 2017
  • Posted under TV
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From the 13th to 20th century, Vienna was the capital of the Hapsburg dynasty and its middle European empire.

In this series, Simon Sebag Montefiore tells the story of how the Habsburgs transformed Vienna into a multi-national city of music, culture and ideas; of palaces and churches; of coffee houses, courtesans, and conquerors. 

He describes how Napoleon, Hitler, Mozart and Freud all played their part and how Vienna has become the monumental capital of Austria that it is today.

Watch Vienna on BBC Four

The three-part series starts at 9pm on Thursday 8 December on BBC Four. For more information about the series, visit the BBC's Vienna pages.

Here on OpenLearn you can explore Vienna's long history and rich culture with our interactive map of the city, a family tree of the Habsburg dynasty, personal stories of the Viennese and a guide to words and phrases in Austrian German.

Episode 3: The City of Dreams 1814-1955

Episode 3 begins in 1814. Napoleon Bonaparte had lost his empire and his throne. That Autumn, Europe’s most powerful men travelled to Vienna for the ultimate summit meeting: to rebuild the Europe Napoleon had almost brought to its knees. But the Congress of Vienna wasn’t all diplomacy; it turned into the biggest party the continent had ever seen. But while the Habsburg Emperor hosted the Congress and its wild parties, this European summit was dominated and orchestrated by his right hand man: Prince Klemens von Metternich.

After Metternich’s triumph at the Congress of Vienna, we visit his palaces and tell how he spent a career dominating Europe by crushing any and all opposition from Vienna. Then in 1848, Metternich was overthrown and a new young Emperor Franz Josef was chosen to pick up the pieces. From his struggles with Napoleon III and Bismarck and the suicide of his son Rudolf, to the assassination of his beautiful wife Sisi and his heir Franz Ferdinand, Franz Josef’s empire and his family proved almost impossible to control. But while the Habsburgs and their empire headed for extinction, Vienna blossomed. The influx of immigrants from around the empire transformed the city into a crossroads of creativity. A modern age dawned. As the theories of Freud and the sensuality of the Secession artists like Klimt and Schiele challenged the very status quo that Franz Josef had so desperately struggled to preserve, a strange dark feeling of desperate foreboding began to stalk his imperial court.

Vienna was the incubator of consciousness and creativity but also the laboratory of destruction. Hitler and Stalin stalked her streets. It was here WWI was sparked; it was here where WWII was dreamed.

Episodes in this series

Episode Description
Episode 1: The Imperial City 1160-1683 We begin 2,000 years ago when the Romans established a fortress to defend Rome from hostile Germanic tribes. Read more
Episode 2: The Baroque City 1683-1814 The story of Vienna triumphant. The city was rebuilt, and no longer would it be an outpost defending the West from... Read more
Episode 3: The City of Dreams 1814-1955 Napoleon Bonaparte has lost his empire and his throne. Europe’s most powerful men travel to Vienna to rebuild the... Read more


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