16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE?,
This review is from: Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 (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. If you want to know about the conflict between the Calvinism of the State and the Lutheranism of some of the people in the seventeenth century; about Bismarck's `Kulturkampf' against the Catholic Church in the nineteenth; about the reasons why the Prussian Army collapsed so suddenly in the face of Napoleon but performed so spectacularly against Austria and France two generations later; about the role of women in the Prussian story; about why Bismarck was the architect of national insurance as well as of German unity; about why the First World War broke out, read on. These are only a sample of the topics discussed, by someone who clearly knows what he is talking about.
The book is not `dry' as one reviewer suggests: on the contrary it is a skilful interweaving of facts and anecdote, of people and socio-economic analysis. At the same time, I have to say that I did not find much in this book about the reasons for Germany's rise to economic and industrial leadership in Europe in the period before 1914, nor about her scientific, cultural and philosophic predominance; that I was not always swept along by the author's style; and the maps are not very good when viewed on the Kindle edition; but overall this is an illuminating survey of what is, in effect, the whole of Prussian history. The Iron Kingom is no more: only Brandenburg remains. Christopher Clark tells us why.