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Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 [Hardcover]

Christopher Clark
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
RRP: 30.00
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Book Description

3 Aug 2006
With its capital in Berlin, Prussia grew from being a small, poor, disregarded medieval state into one of the most vigorous and powerful countries in Europe, the scourge of its many enemies and, ultimately, the motor behind the creation of the German Empire in 1871 with all that implied for the 20th century. After the Second World War Prussia, which had still continued to exist as part of the German state, was abolished by the Allies, blamed for the overwhelming militarism that had led Europe into total disaster. Prussia's role in Europe's fortunes has been incalculable and "Iron Kingdom" is, extraordinarily, the first major book devoted to it. Prussia's power came from a sequence of notably brilliant rulers (most famously Frederick the Great), dynastic marriage and an obsessive focus on military excellence. It was both a progressive, well-run, enlightened country and a huge, threatening barracks. "Iron Kingdom" is a wonderfully readable, gripping account of a state which, for both good and ill, has fundamentally shaped our world.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (3 Aug 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713994665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713994667
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.2 x 5.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 120,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'...a monumental history'
-- Richard Overy, The Telegraph

'...excellent book' -- Simon Heffer, Literary Review

'...sophisticated yet accessible' -- The Independent

'...surely the best history of Prussia in any language' -- Daniel Johnson, Sunday Telegraph

'This ambitious volume, with its elegance and humour, will become
a classic work in a crowded field' -- BBC History

From the Back Cover

`Fascinating ... masterly ... littered with intriguing detail and wry observation' Richard Overy, Daily Telegraph --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 103 people found the following review helpful
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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE? 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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91 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is history as it should be written 30 Aug 2006
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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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 24 Nov 2006
I heard many good things about this book before I got it, and was pleased to find that they were all true. This is a fascinating journey through some 350 years of Prussian history, from the early days of the Mark Brandenburg to post-WWII. There is a lot here, and as others have said it will probably take you a while to get through it, not because the writing is difficult (it is anything but, being admirably clear and flowing) but because of its size (indeed, until I read this book I did not realise how big asubject this was). But it is well worth the journey.

Even on the rare occasions that I feared the author was getting off the main subject, e.g. his detailed treatment of the Pietist religious movement in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, I came out feeling that this was all highly relevant to the main theme. Indeed, I now feel I understand much better the reasons for and effects of that peculiar blend of insecurity and confidence, indeed at times arrogance, that drove much of Prussian history and was typified in the person of Wilhelm II. At the same time it shows clearly that there was never a uniformity of Prussion thought and culture, and that there were always elements that were at odds with what became perceived as rigid Prussian stereotypes.

Thoroughly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very good. Sometimes too academic
Published 27 days ago by George Goussis
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by groovy granny
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very infomitive good to read
Published 1 month ago by Austin Halliday
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Absorbing history of Prussia as a political entity in itself and in the world. Very helpful in putting in context anything you might think of from Frederick the Great to Bismarck... Read more
Published 2 months ago by PG
3.0 out of 5 stars To whom it may concern
It is not at all clear who Christopher Clark thinks he is addressing.

He is obviously knowledgeable, and his research thorough, but there are great failings in how he... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Clive Eiles
5.0 out of 5 stars Prussia: good ideas can have dangerous results
This book is as good and useful to understanding what went wrong in 1914 as is the same author's Sleepwakers. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Rev Anselm Cramer
4.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the pickelhaube
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... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sebastian Palmer
4.0 out of 5 stars Prussia Explained
Iron Kingdom is an expansive history of Prussia. It covers the political, military, and social history of Prussia in equal measure. Read more
Published 4 months ago by JH
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading
If you are interested in German history, this book is easily read and gives an understanding of the history of this great country, it's rise and fall and it's people.
Published 4 months ago by Paul McMahon
5.0 out of 5 stars A real delight for a serious but uninformed reader
I am not a historian and have no issues about Prussia/Prussianess etc. but one of the joys of being retired is filling up gaps in my knowledge. Read more
Published 6 months ago by buyerbeware
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