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Whats in a name Microcosm Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse 605pp Jonathan Cape The Polish city of Wroclaw the capital of Silesia has been at various times in its history German Prussian Austrian Bohemian - and Polish Early on it was important because like Prague or Paris it was on an island in a river the Odra or Oder then it was the fact that it lay along east-west trade routes then that it became a railway nodal point Its wealth - it was often though not too much lately a wealthy city - was variously founded on brewing wool flax madder mining rolling stock and heavy industry In religion it has been Catholic Hussite Lutheran often tolerant of Jewish and other minorities sometimes not The province it was part of Silesia was fought over many times regularly changing hands in wars or dynastic succession Sometimes as under the Habsburgs it seemed reasonably secure and enjoyed a fair degree of autonomy swaddled among other central European smallholdings at other times it looked exposed practically a frontier city on the edge of two bristling empires the German and the Russian Norman Davies the author of histories of Poland and Europe and his former researcher and now co-author Roger Moorhouse see the career or vicissitudes of the place as emblematic of Europe Their subject happens to be Wroclaw Breslau but it could equally have been Strasbourg or Lvov or Trieste or Gdansk other cities variously fought over and held The city is a point that is defined by - or better that has survived - the various lines of demarcation nationality religion language culture history running now one side of it now the other and now through the middle This produces in our brief and shallow and mercifully EC-determined era an oddly optimistic and rather colourless type of history in some ways a kind of aprs-history Wroclaw is Polish but that doesnt really matter
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