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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 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140293345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140293340
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,151 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

26 of 27 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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101 of 107 people found the following review helpful By AGC 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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95 of 102 people found the following review helpful By M. Burton on 30 Aug. 2006
Format: Hardcover
It's not very often that you read something which really changes your thinking about a major area of History. This book does. It shows that there is a far greater richness and diversity to the Prussian story than the hoary military stereotypes would have us believe. This book is superb on Prussia in the Napoleonic period, and also on the unification era. Clark is very good also at his pen-portraits - Hegel, the captain of Koepenick, Georg Grosz et al. Above all this is a book which encourages us to see Prussia as distinct from Germany, and is a fine attempt to rehabilitate an entity tarred with a perhaps unjustified degree of opprobrium after 1945.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Anglophone on 4 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback
There is very little I can add to the other reviews of this book except to reiterate that despite its length and detail, it is a very easy and compelling book to read and one not to be missed for those who are interested in modern European history. This is a history of Prussia and how the Margraves of Brandenburg came to be the Kings in Prussia and then Kings of Prussia, before finally becoming the German Emperors. This is most emphatically not a history of Germany nor a history of the Hohenzollerns but a history of the territory they ruled and how they increased both the physical and political and cultural importance of their territory. Reading this book does require prior knowledge of the history of the region and periods covered not least to fill in those gaps others have mentioned. There are no family trees in the paperback edition, so it might be a good idea to print out one from the internet to follow who is who (and have a detailed atlas of Germany handy as well, as the maps in the Penguin edition are not always easy to read.)

Two very minor typographical/proofreading errors in the Penguin edition which I bought: (these ought to be addressed to Penguin but it has proved beyond my deductive skills to find how to contact their history editors) p. 62, Frederick II the Great is the Great Elector's great-grandson, not his grandson (an error not repeated elsewhere); and p. 666, the name should read Arthur Seyss-Inquart, not Inquest. It says much about the quality of the book that these two very minor errors appear all the more glaring because of that quality.
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