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Wilhelm II The Kaiser's Personal Monarchy, 1888-1900 [Hardcover]

John C. G. Röhl , Sheila de Bellaigue
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

19 Aug 2004
Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859–1941) ruled Imperial Germany from his accession in 1888 to his enforced abdication in 1918 at the end of the First World War. This book, based on a wealth of previously unpublished archival material, provides the most detailed account ever written of the first half of his reign. Following on from John Röhl's definitive and highly acclaimed Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser's Early Life, 1859–1888 (1998), the volume demonstrates the monarch's dynastic arrogance and the wounding abuse he showered on his own people as, step by step, he built up his personal power. His thirst for glory, his overweening nationalism and militarism and his passion for the navy provided the impetus for a breathtaking long-term goal: the transformation of the German Reich into the foremost power in the world. Urgent warnings from all sides, both against the revival of a semi-absolute Personal Monarchy on the threshold to the twentieth century and against the challenge his goal of 'world power' implied for the existing World Powers Great Britain, France and Russia were brushed aside by the impetuous young ruler with his faithful military retinue and blindly devoted court favourites. Soon the predicted consequences - constitutional crisis at home and diplomatic isolation abroad - began to make their alarming appearance.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 1306 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (19 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521819202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521819206
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 18 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'… his scholarship is profound and beyond reproach. This biography of the last German Kaiser is a monument not only to its mercurial subject, but also to a highly distinctive academic career.' The Times Literary Supplement

'This biography is definitive by being exhaustive. … This is a wonderful example of scholarship and hard work'. Contemporary Reviews

Book Description

Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859–1941) was the last ruler of Imperial Germany and a key figure in German history as it followed its fatal course from Bismarck to Hitler. This book provides the most detailed account ever written of the first half of his reign.

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First Sentence
IN any other monarchy the death of two Emperors within three months would no doubt have been followed by the coronation of their successor in a solemn and magnificent ceremony designed to demonstrate the stability of the throne. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Expertly researched and brilliantly written 7 April 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
John Rohl's three volume work on Kaiser Wilhelm is revealing, original and so well written that reading it is not only an education, but a tremendously enjoyable read. It makes not only the Kaiser, but the times in which he lived vividly spring to life. Anyone interested in the history of Germany or indeed, Europe should put these volumes on the top of their reading list.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superbly written and researched book . 29 Mar 2010
By John "Silence is Golden" - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is an absolute stunning achievement of scholarship that minutely details the crucial decade when Kaiser Wilhelm 11 with the willing assistance of opportunistic conservative monarchist politicians and his military entourage step by step enabled this intelligent, highly strung and physically disabled neurotic to become a near absolute emperor of the most highly educated, modern industrial and military state in Europe. It details a "will to power" that the Kaiser relentlessly pursued that the parliamentary system set up by the "iron chancellor" Otto von Bismarck after the close of the Franco-Prussian war without his guiding hand was completely unable to cope with.

The chapters on the Bismarck family dynasty, their relationship with the Kaiser and his supporters and Bismarck's ultimate fall are brilliantly detailed by Mr.Rohl. The book highlights the spread of the Wilhelmian "court culture" in its crucial beginning phases with the Kaiser as a very willing "front man" delivering {mostly} effective speechs all over the Kaiserreich and posing as the unceasing workaholic {untrue} which allied with his youth and effective public relations system allowed him to bypass constitutional controls and gradually and steadily increase his power.

However it is also shown that while the Kaiser was able to accumulate and consolidate power, the wisdom and vision to use it in a wise and constructive manner was beyond his abilities and those of his advisors. The many government officials and military entourage that supported the Kaisers plan towards his centralizing of power do it for a mixture of motives, not always venal. However as the decade progressed and the Kaisers flaws of character and increasing mental instability became more and more apparent, Mr.Rohl chronicles the widespread and not so muted underground disquiet that many early boosters of the Kaiser now were feeling on his ability to rule without bringing down the whole system crashing down around them - and yet paradoxically their fear of the spread of democracy and socialism in the Reich meant that they had almost no choice but to support him to protect their political and social power within the existing governance system.

The chapters on the Kaisers various family relationships and their effect on him and the German empires foreign policy are at one level seem totally ludicrous to us in 2010 in that personal dislikes and piques could be so crucial in diplomatic relations especially with Great Britain AND YET they really did affect the power politics of the handful of great powers that dominated the planet. Mr.Rohl's meticulous research on the Kaisers far reaching influence and critical decision-making within all areas of the imperial government gives lie to those past historians that have claimed that the Kaiser was a marginal historical figure. As you get deeper into the narrative, one thing is clear- the Kaiser REALLY mattered and was/is a critical world historical figure in the 26 years prior to the 1st World War.

Can one imagine how European History would have been different if the Kaisers father not died in 1888 and with the Empress Victoria, both sympathetic to a more constitutional and liberal type of government - How would history have been different if they had reigned say until 1912. Would - WW 1 had occurred in 1914 if a 53 year old Wilhelm had ascended the throne in 1912 -it is very very doubtful !!!

The book's narrative is 1067 pages with notes to pages and a bibliography that add another 200 pages. It is densely written but the prose is clear and not dreary or boring. The page type/print is very small so be prepared to experience some eye strain !!! This book is definitely not for the casual reader - some prior knowledge of the creation of the German Empire by Prince Bismarck and his system of governance, economic foreign and social policies, the social, colonial and economic policies of Britain, Russia, Austria - Hungary and France from 1850 to 1900 will, be useful if not essential for its full enjoyment and understanding. Knowledge of some of the major political figures of the era - Queen Victoria, Lord Salisbury, Francis Joseph ,PM Gladstone, Czars Alexander and Nicholas and German political figures such as Frederick von Holstein and Admiral von Tirpiz would also be useful.

The book is divided into 35 chapters that clearly define the narrative and smoothly move it along. There are 55 pictures individually placed thru-out the book most of which I had never seen before. I've read many books about this era and can say without hesitation that this one is a classic work that will probably never to be surpassed in its scope and breathe. Despite the hefty price tag, if you are interested in late 19th century European history, the German Empire and a multi faceted paradox and portrait of Wilhelm 11, his good points as well as the "warts and all" painstakingly researched and written by the pre-eminent scholar, writer and historian of this era about Imperial Germany, then this book is a MUST for your library. It is a 5 star book - now I have to save up for Mr.Rohl's prior book - Young Wilhelm, 1859 to 1888 Bravo Mr.Rohl. Highly recommended.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wilhelm II 17 Jun 2012
By Robert L. Hahnke - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very detailed record of Kaiser and the pre WW1 atmosphere in Germany and its relations with the world during that period.
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