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Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 Paperback – 6 Sep 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140293345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140293340
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A magisterial history of Europe's only extinct power, nuanced, dispassionate and utterly gripping' -- Financial Times

`A terrific book ... the definitive history of this much-maligned state' -- Daily Telegraph Books of the Year

`Exemplary ... an illuminating, profoundly satisfying work of history' -- The New York Times

`The best history of Prussia in any language' -- Sunday Telegraph

`Written with great clarity and vigour ... I was completely hooked' -- Antonia Fraser, Guardian Books of the Year

'...thorough, sensitive and well-written'
-- Justin Cartwright, Spectator Books of the Year

From the Back Cover

`Fascinating ... masterly ... littered with intriguing detail and wry observation' Richard Overy, Daily Telegraph

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

99 of 105 people found the following review helpful By A. G. Corwin on 11 Dec 2006
Format: Hardcover
Rich in detail, Christopher Clark's new book Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947, is a welcome addition to the multitude of histories covering central Europe. Clark brings to life an era of Prussian history that is little known aside from the 19th and 20th century Kaisers and this expansive history is a fine piece of research.

Clark analyzes the transformation of the Prussian empire from its small Brandenburg origins to the dominant European power it became. The book covers all the major rulers from the Great Elector to Frederick the Great to Kaiser "Willy", and examines in detail the social, political, economic and military issues that played such a part in the development of Prussia. Where Clark especially shines is the detail of the empire's early years with the Great Elector and his two successors. In this era Prussia gained extensive swaths of territory through alliances and marriages, even as it went through internal and religious strife at home. Clark has clearly done his homework, scouring through dusty archives and examining in multiple languages the papers of the empire, most notably the Political Testaments (a letter of sorts to the next King) of the early Kings. Clark examines the successes of the Prussian military machine, with its strength of the canton regimental system, and the growth of the civil service and judiciary. The political maneuverings between Prussia, France, England, Russia, and Austria make for fascinating reading, with Prussia somehow managing to come out ahead more often than not (conversely, Austria managed to always find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory).

This is a large book, and takes a while to get through.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Cooper on 19 Oct 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Another reviewer has expressed surprise that the author of this history of Prussia from 1600 to 1947 scarcely mentions the First World War; but this is to misunderstand the purpose of the book. This is not a narrative history of Prussia, let alone Germany. It is an attempt to explain some of the contradictions in Prussian history and politics; and why a state which so justly merited the title of `Iron Kingdom' ultimately collapsed and was expunged from the annals of history after the Second World War. In this, Christopher Clark succeeds brilliantly.

Who can honestly say they know anything about Prussia? When I first came across the place at school, I could not understand how there could be two states with such similar names - Prussia and Russia; and it took a long time to understand the relationship between historic Prussia and present-day Germany. Clark shows very well how this grew, but also how complex the relationship was; and how the dominance of Prussia within the German Empire between 1870 and 1914, together with the uncertain position of the Kaiser and the Army in the imperial constitution, was responsible for many of Germany's problems.

Clark tells some familiar stories - for example about Frederick the Great's invasion of Silesia and his tragic relationship with his friend Von Katte, and about the Captain of Kopenick - but he also explains some unfamiliar problems of German history.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sebastian Palmer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 April 2014
Format: Paperback
Prussia is probably best known to readers of military history, who will be familiar with her as a nation thanks to Frederick The Great, the Napoleonic wars, Bismarck and the Franco-Prussian war, and, of course, two world wars. This in itself says a lot about how we've thought of Prussia.

Before I get to Clark's book, I hope you'll allow me a brief digression on a very British view of Prussian culture: one of my first encounters with the classic cliché of the militaristic Prussian type came in the form of the comic film Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines. The German officer in that movie was a fairly benign rendering of the stereotype, sending himself up by parping tuba type bass-lines from pompous martial music, whilst simultaneously exemplifying the vaunted 'military efficiency' of the German officer class by teaching himself to fly from a manual. In the end his literal downfall is bought about by that quintessential image of Prussian militarism, his pickelhaube, the point of which bursts his balloon (during an aerial duel with a Frenchman). Behind this relatively recent iteration of the Junkers type as a harmless comical buffoon, there has long lain a much darker vision of aristocratic German elitism, whose combination of rigid servility ('I voz only obeyink orderz' was still a comedic playground catchphrase in my childhood) and belligerent arrogance are still popularly seen as amongst the root causes of two world wars.
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