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Bismarck: A Life Paperback – 2 Aug 2012
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This is an austere and thoughtful book ... Steinberg has given us a major biography. (The Guardian)
Otto von Bismarck became the dominant figure of his era and, as this rich and readable biography shows, had an almost uncanny sense of power. Steinberg's portrait is very much warts and all. (The Sunday Times)
Jonathan Steinbergâs new biography of Bismarck has been widely acclaimed, and rightly so. I read a lot of German history, and this is the most enjoyable German history book I have read in years. As a deeply researched but accessible guide to the life of one of nineteenth-century Europeâs most compelling and significant political figures, it stands head and shoulders above other Bismarck biographies. (Abigail Green, European History Quarterly)
About the Author
Jonathan Steinberg is the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Modern European History at the University of Pennsylvania, and Emeritus Fellow, Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He is the author of Yesterday's Deterrent: Tirpitz and the Birth of the German Battle Fleet (1965), Why Switzerland? (2nd ed.1996) and All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust, 1941 to 1943 (classic edition 2002). He was also the principal author of The Deutsche Bank and its Gold Transactions during the Second World War (1999).
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Top Customer Reviews
Bismarck is shown repeatedly to have been deeply neurotic, repeatedly to the point of hysteria, hate-filled, vindictive, and paranoid (with some justification: he had made so many enemies, at Court and elsewhere). His intemperate rages drove his doctor to resign. (The next doctor, regarded by his colleagues as a quack, was curiously successful by treating Bismarck with the "tender loving care" with which noone had ever treated him before.Read more ›
As I don't HATE the book, and as both of the above claims it made are true, it can get two stars. But why can't it get more?
I think probably the most significant point is that Steinberg utterly, utterly fails to bring Bismarck to life. This man was one of the greats of European history. He, and he alone, is largely responsible for creating a Europe that looks in some way like it does now. The most influential character of the nineteenth century? Probably not. In the top 10? Without a doubt. There should be enough in all this, not to mention Bismarck's legendary hypochondria, gluttonous appetite and self-proclaimed ambition to drink a certain number of bottles of Champagne and smoke a certain number of cigars before he died (I think it was 10,000 and 5,000 respectively) to flesh out Otto. Sadly, the details of his self-proclaimed ambition, his throwing an inkpot at the Kaiser, his locking himself in a cupboard when storming out of a room by mistake, are all ignored.
Instead, we are treated to a dry, turgid, day-by-day account of what Bismarck did and when, without any sort of effort to link the strands of his character together or show how they develop. If I'd not read any other books on Bismarck, I'd feel he was an exceptionally boring man.Read more ›
Bismarck achieved the unification of the German States, and broke free from the dominance of the old Austrian Empire. He introduced a state-funded social security system a quarter of a century before Lloyd George managed it in Britain. Personally brave, yet aggressive and a bully, he was prepared to destroy those who challenged him, even old friends. An arch-manipulator who conducted domestic and foreign policy - realpolitik- like a chess or poker game which he had to win, he seemed to have a low boredom threshold and could not help experimenting with ideas - often quite visionary- to pass the time.
A man of contradictions, he persecuted the catholics when it suited him politically, and was often crudely anti-semitic - but he employed a Jewish banker to manage his investments, and remembered with nostalgia his late-night political discussions with the Jewish socialist Lasselle.
Despite his apparently despotic power and undeniable influence, he remained totally dependent on the support of the Prussian King whom he made into an Emperor, with whom he maintained a complex emotional relationship spanning several decades.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very enjoyable and enlightening, not a heavy read by any means. gave a real insight to the way the collective German character has been shaped by longevity of William 1 and the... Read morePublished 7 months ago by D Bruce Lang
I read this after reading Talleyrand and Metternich two people I was aware of, before I read about them, as I was aware of Bismarck before I read this book. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Raymond Fieldsend
As the book quotes many letters from Bismarck and other contemporaries it gives an interesting insight into the thinking of the main players, and also how historians use such data... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Stephen lockett
The famous philosopher of history Robin George Collingwood proposed focusing on the mind of main decision makers with a maximal effort to achieve "reenactment. Read morePublished on 18 Dec. 2013 by Yehezkel Dror
This is an astonishingly clear and well written book about Bismark and the social and political environment of his time. Read morePublished on 10 Aug. 2013 by H. Carter
I have read dozens of history books, but this is the worst by far.
As others have pointed out the book is full of quotes from other books and correspondence which bring... Read more
Bismarck was a huge character in the nineteenth century, and this work reflects his eminence. It shows a vain, scheming, confrontational man: it also depicts a loving,... Read morePublished on 16 Feb. 2013 by The Snucist