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Wilhelm II The Kaiser's Personal Monarchy, 1888-1900 Hardcover – 19 Aug 2004

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1306 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (19 Aug. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521819202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521819206
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 5.9 x 24.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 705,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


'… 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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Top Customer Reviews

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 Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x94c42540) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94b512a0) out of 5 stars A superbly written and researched book . 29 Mar. 2010
By John Silence is Golden - Published on Amazon.com
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.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9483000c) out of 5 stars WALDERSEE, WALDERSEE, WALDERSEE 21 Mar. 2015
By Child of Herodotus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is the most absolutely tedious, tiresome book that I believe I have ever read. Its overriding flaw in a nutshell, is not its length, but rather, WALDERSEE, WALDERSEE, WALDERSEE. The author utilizes the unexpurgated diaries of Count Alfred von Waldersee, Chief of the German General Staff from 1888 to 1891, as a primary source, which is all well and good in and of itself. The problem is he over utilizes them. Massively over utilizes them. He quotes entire blocks of text from Waldersee's diaries verbatim, page after page after tedious page. Waldersee is cited as the ONLY source on numerous events that occurred in the period in question. Not only is this just poor scholarship in itself, relying so heavily on only one source, but the source itself is suspect, since Wilhelm fired Waldersee as Chief of Staff in 1891, so we can only imagine that the good general must have had quite an axe to grind. Furthermore, most of the diary extracts are nothing but gossip. "The Grand Duke told me this...the general told me that...the prominent banker said..." All of it third party hearsay, which would be inadmissible in any court of law. Waldersee is quoted on every single page (or at least every other page) so much so that I began to hate the sight of his name.

In all seriousness, the author aspires, in his 3 volumes, to write the definitive biography of Wilhelm II. The first volume, Young Wilhelm, was quite good, although burdened down with over lengthy expositions of the future Kaiser's birth injury (paralyzed left arm) and other ailments worthy of a medical school textbook. I honestly don't know how this second volume can be considered a monumental work of scholarship due to its ridiculously heavy reliance on only one source, which is the diary of the village gossip, who wasn't even at the center of power any more for most of the period in question. If I can overcome my disgust for the author and his methodology, I might read volume 3, if only to see what he uses for a source after Waldersee's death in 1904. Unfortunately, I bought all 3 volumes, and I feel as if I have wasted a monumental amount of money. Lamar Cecil's 2 volume biography of Wilhelm is, in my opinion, a much more truly scholarly effort, as well as being much, much easier to read.

The only positive word I have to say about the book is that it provides some insight into the political and structural complexities of the Second Reich and Prussia's position therein, but here again, I would recommend The Chancellor as Courtier by Katharine Anne Lerman as a much more digestible case study of said complexities and the way one Imperial Chancellor (the notorious Bernhard von Bulow) dealt with them.

Please don't make the same mistake I did. Steer clear of this heaping pile of rubbish. If you really want to read Waldersee's diaries, I'm sure you can find a copy of them somewhere.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94ba9c54) out of 5 stars Wilhelm II 17 Jun. 2012
By Robert L. Hahnke - Published on Amazon.com
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.
1 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Edward Volek II - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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