The story of Central Europe is anything but simple. As the region located between East and West, it has always been endowed with a rich variety of migrants, and has repeatedly been the scene of nomadic invasions, mixed settlements and military conquests. It has witnessed a profusion of languages, religions, nationalities and cultural transformations. The most important waves of modern settlement have been Germanic and Slavic, but Central Europe also became a great haven for Europe's Jews. In recent history, it was subjected to both Fascism and Communism in succession. The ordeal lasted for fifty years, and the damage to life and liberty was incalculable. In order to present a portrait of Central Europe, Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse have made a case study of one of its most colourful cities, the former German Breslau, which became the Polish Wrocllaw after the Second World War. The traditional capital of the province of Silesia rose to prominence a thousand years ago as a trading centre and bishopric in Piast Poland. In due course it became the second city of the kingdom of Bohemia, a major municipality of the Habsburg lands, and then a Residenzstadt of the kingdom of Prussia.
The third largest city of nineteenth-century Germany, its population reached one million before the bitter siege by the Soviet Army in 1945 wrought almost total destruction. Since then Wrocllaw has risen from the ruins of war and is once again a thriving regional centre. The history of Silesia's main city is more than a fascinating tale in its own right. It embodies all the experiences which have made Central Europe what it is - a rich mixture of nationalities and cultures; the scene of German settlement and of 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.
Norman Davies C. M. G., F. B. A. is a Professor Emeritus of the University of London, a Supernumerary Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, and the author of several books on Polish and European history, including God's Playground, Europe and The Isles. Roger Moorhouse, who is a Germanist and historian, was chief researcher on Davies's previous books. Since Microcosm he has published two solo books: Killing Hitler and, most recently, Berlin at War. He is a regular contributor to the BBC History Magazine and History Today, a book reviewer for the Independent on Sunday, and an occasional commentator on television and radio