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The Course of German History: A Survey of the Development of German History since 1815 (Routledge Classics) Hardcover – 18 May 2001

3.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (18 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415255589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415255585
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,559,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

'Mr Taylor, by cutting down to a minimum the ballast of dates and names that so often encumbers historical writing, and concentrating on the fundamental trends and events, has achieved both brevity and lucidity.' - The Observer

From the Back Cover

'Mr Taylor, by cutting down to a minimum the ballast of dates and names that so often encumbers historical writing, and concentrating on the fundamental trends and events, has achieved both brevity and lucidity.' - The Observer

One of A.J.P. Taylor's best known books, 'The Course of German History' is a notoriously idiosyncratic work, written during the last days of the Second World War. Composed in his famously witty style, yet succinct to the point of sharpness, 'The Course of German History' is one of the great historian's finest, if more controversial, accomplishments. As Taylor himself noted, 'the history of the Germans is a history of extremes. It contains everything except moderation.' He could, of course, simply be referring to his own book. A.J.P. Taylor (1906-90). He was the author of numerous bestselling works, including 'Bismarck', 'English History 1914-1945', 'The Origins of the Second World War' and 'The War Lords'.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
The Course of German History (Routledge Classics): A Survey of the Development of German History Since 1815
Less a dated book than a product of deeply-felt partisanship and bias against anything and everything German -- still shared by many fifty years after publication -- yet refreshingly illuminating in its bluntness, away from the pro-German bias of most scholars of things German (and of most for their chosen subjects), along realist, machiavellian lines assigning much to chance, on such topics as Martin Luther, the emergence of Prussia, the old Junker and officer class, Austria through the centuries, Germans generally, then and now: a pleasure page after page, and a must read on Germany, the Germans, and (debunked) history in general.
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Format: Paperback
What this is not is an up to date overview of German history. It is idiosyncratic. It is a glorious and exteded rant. It is worth reading. This is a book one should read in the knowledge that what is said may very often be wrong (however wonderfully written), but that it was also written in certain context. Perhaps this is, above all, a book for those interested in Taylor himself - as one of the great historians.
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This book is a fantastic and concise history of German History between 1815 and 1945. Taylor's popular writing is at its best here, witty, jaded, critical and sometimes prone to generalisation or exaggeration. Historical errors are largely covered by the later prefaces where Taylor admits to error when writing in '46 without full access to the facts. However it was always meant to be a popular history rather than an academic work so the lack of fully qualifying statements with references can be forgiven in part.

The real problem with this book is that it is a book of it's time. Taylor was a political historian who thought in events and dramatic narrative, which he wove splendidly, but this way of analysing history has not lasted. So when looking at the rise of demagogues like Hitler or the struggles of Junker and German middle class, it isn't enough to just view the higher political events but to dig in to the economic and social histories of the times. Where he broke with many of the older historians is that he rarely had time for "Great Men" but saw almost all political leaders as men making do with the events before them rather than shapers and planners, he always presents this in a cynically witty manner. It also shows why it isn't just a polemic to cash in the mood of post war western Europe, it suited everyone to treat Hitler as an evil mad men who duped the world in to a war and to quickly re-assimilate the Federal Republic. Seen in the context of "The Origins of The Second World War", where Taylor was merciless with all political leaders on both sides and at times scathing of the populations of all countries, the book is not a polemic against the German people.

A great read and a concise narrative of the period, however it is not a work you should ever base an essay on.
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A brilliant history book for those students of German history, and for those wishing to read a superb summary of nineteenth and twentieth century German history up to July 1945. The preface (added 1961) sets the tone of Taylor's critical assessment of Germany and the Germans. For those accusing Taylor of holding brutal anti-German views, he reminds the reader that "the facts made it for themselves" - facts which indeed stand before us all to see, to learn, and to try and understand.

The first chapter sets the scene with a summary of German history from the time when Charlemagne founded the First Reich in the year 800 to the outbreak of the French revolution in 1789. This summary of nearly 1,000 years of German history in just twenty-four pages must stand alone as one of the greatest accomplishments in historical writing of any age. Taylor's lucid and evocative style may unsettle some readers, but it does stimulate the mind to ask questions, and sets the scene for the rest of the book. Of course, no one wishes to be described or labelled as a 'barbarian', even a 'barbarian of genius' (a clear reference to Frederick the Great of Prussia). But I rather suspect those who express concern at this language may not have learnt all the facts, or may not wish to, for whatever reason.

Of the following chapters, I would highly recommend the chapter on the failed German liberal revolution of 1848, which of course laid many of the seeds for the future troubles of Germany. The events of the German revolution are quite complicated, as the German Confederation at this time included such states as Austria and Bohemia, yet Taylor's lucid account and explanation of these events is excellent.
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