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Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 Paperback – 6 Sep 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140293345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140293340
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 86,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

A magisterial history of Europe's only extinct power, nuanced, dispassionate and utterly gripping' -- Financial Times

`A terrific book ... the definitive history of this much-maligned state' -- Daily Telegraph Books of the Year

`Exemplary ... an illuminating, profoundly satisfying work of history' -- The New York Times

`The best history of Prussia in any language' -- Sunday Telegraph

`Written with great clarity and vigour ... I was completely hooked' -- Antonia Fraser, Guardian Books of the Year

'...thorough, sensitive and well-written'
-- Justin Cartwright, Spectator Books of the Year

From the Back Cover

`Fascinating ... masterly ... littered with intriguing detail and wry observation' Richard Overy, Daily Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. Davidson VINE VOICE on 20 May 2017
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been reading a lot of history books lately on subjects like the Habsburgs and Romanovs so I thought I would try this history of Prussia and the Hohenzollern dynasty. I didn't enjoy it. It is excruciatingly long and is written in a very dry,humourless,academic manner by the author. It is not really a book to read if you're expecting to be entertained as well as informed. There is a lot of very tedious,uninteresting detail throughout which I didn't really want to know. The author failed to make Prussia come to life for me and didn't generate any kind of colour to change my opinion that Prussia was an incredibly dull,monotonous place. The only character that I found remotely interesting was Frederick the Great and I wish I had bought his biography rather than Iron Kingdom. I can understand totally why the victorious allies decided to wipe Prussia off the map in 1945. Simon Sebag Montefiore writes these sort of books in a much more lively,colourful and accessible manner. Iron Kingdom is strictly one for the academic and the expert. It will not entertain and I think I deserve some sort of award for finishing it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I believe this is not just a good book; it is also an important book. I would like everyone to read it, but I recognize that it might not live up to some people's expectations. That is why I think it is important to introduce it as comprehensively as possible so that readers will not give up disappointed midway through and miss a truly rewarding experience.

The Iron Kingdom is not a military history, although a theme is militarism which perhaps justifies its bellicose cover, if you want to read about battles then you will not find much joy here. The battle of Sedan is given a single sentence, Koeniggratz not much more and Waterloo is almost an afterthought. The author does not underestimate the importance of these events; it is merely that he is more interested in the causes and consequences than the blood and heroism. Prussian military tactics in the seven year war, the use of the needle gun and rifled cannon are described in much greater detail, but only because they reflect elements of Prussian civil and political culture. Jena is also described in some detail but not because it was great clash of armies but rather because it represented a culture shock which changed the way the Prussians saw themselves and organised their state.

So what is the Iron Kingdom and what makes it so good? I can only really give a personal perspective and so I need to discuss a little of my own interests and biases.

I am British, I am interested in what makes the British - British, what makes the English - English, what makes the Welsh - Welsh, the Scots - Scots and the Irish - Irish. I have been interested in this ever since I discovered that no one could give me a straight answer to any of these questions other than `history'.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Arrived in excellent condition and very well priced.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
There is very little I can add to the other reviews of this book except to reiterate that despite its length and detail, it is a very easy and compelling book to read and one not to be missed for those who are interested in modern European history. This is a history of Prussia and how the Margraves of Brandenburg came to be the Kings in Prussia and then Kings of Prussia, before finally becoming the German Emperors. This is most emphatically not a history of Germany nor a history of the Hohenzollerns but a history of the territory they ruled and how they increased both the physical and political and cultural importance of their territory. Reading this book does require prior knowledge of the history of the region and periods covered not least to fill in those gaps others have mentioned. There are no family trees in the paperback edition, so it might be a good idea to print out one from the internet to follow who is who (and have a detailed atlas of Germany handy as well, as the maps in the Penguin edition are not always easy to read.)

Two very minor typographical/proofreading errors in the Penguin edition which I bought: (these ought to be addressed to Penguin but it has proved beyond my deductive skills to find how to contact their history editors) p. 62, Frederick II the Great is the Great Elector's great-grandson, not his grandson (an error not repeated elsewhere); and p. 666, the name should read Arthur Seyss-Inquart, not Inquest. It says much about the quality of the book that these two very minor errors appear all the more glaring because of that quality.
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