Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947

Overview

In the aftermath of World War II, Prussia--a centuries-old state pivotal to Europe's development--ceased to exist. In their eagerness to erase all traces of the Third Reich from the earth, the Allies believed that Prussia, the very embodiment of German militarism, had to be abolished.

But as Christopher Clark reveals in this pioneering history, Prussia's legacy is far more complex. Though now a fading memory in Europe's heartland, the true ...

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Overview

In the aftermath of World War II, Prussia--a centuries-old state pivotal to Europe's development--ceased to exist. In their eagerness to erase all traces of the Third Reich from the earth, the Allies believed that Prussia, the very embodiment of German militarism, had to be abolished.

But as Christopher Clark reveals in this pioneering history, Prussia's legacy is far more complex. Though now a fading memory in Europe's heartland, the true story of Prussia offers a remarkable glimpse into the dynamic rise of modern Europe.

What we find is a kingdom that existed nearly half a millennium ago as a patchwork of territorial fragments, with neither significant resources nor a coherent culture. With its capital in Berlin, Prussia grew from being a small, poor, disregarded medieval state into one of the most vigorous and powerful nations in Europe. Iron Kingdom traces Prussia's involvement in the continent's foundational religious and political conflagrations: from the devastations of the Thirty Years War through centuries of political machinations to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, from the enlightenment of Frederick the Great to the destructive conquests of Napoleon, and from the "iron and blood" policies of Bismarck to the creation of the German Empire in 1871, and all that implied for the tumultuous twentieth century.

By 1947, Prussia was deemed an intolerable threat to the safety of Europe; what is often forgotten, Clark argues, is that it had also been an exemplar of the European humanistic tradition, boasting a formidable government administration, an incorruptible civil service, and religious tolerance. Clark demonstrates how a state deemed the bane of twentieth-century Europe has played an incalculable role in Western civilization's fortunes. Iron Kingdom is a definitive, gripping account of Prussia's fascinating, influential, and critical role in modern times.

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Editorial Reviews

Volker Ullrich
What is so captivating about Christopher Clark's book is not merely its confident mastery of an overwhelming mass of sources and literature, but also the variety of its methods and perspectives. The writer's expertise is in politics and military history. He dedicates much attention to the play of huge powers and battlefield activities. But the history of ideas is also duly represented.... The book has been enthusiastically received in the Anglo-Saxon press. And deservedly so. It is a remarkable achievement with which the 46 year-young Cambridge scholar has written himself into the premiere league of British historians.
Die Zeit
William Grimes
Mr. Clark, a senior lecturer in modern European history at Cambridge University, does an exemplary job. A lively writer, he organizes masses of material in orderly fashion, clearly establishing his main themes and pausing at crucial junctures to recapitulate and reconsider. Prussia, a self-invented artifact right down to its name, demands the kind of careful demythologizing that it receives from Mr. Clark, who gently but insistently exposes the flaws in most of the received wisdom about his subject. A result is an illuminating, profoundly satisfying work of history, brightened by vivid character sketches of the principals in his drama.
— The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674023857
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2006
  • Pages: 800
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Clark is Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at St. Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge. He is the author of Politics of Conversion: Missionary Protestantism and the Jews in Prussia 1728–1941 and Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the coeditor of Culture Wars: Catholic-Secular Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Europe.

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Table of Contents

1 The Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg 1
2 Devastation 19
3 An extraordinary light in Germany 38
4 Majesty 67
5 Protestants 115
6 Powers in the land 145
7 Struggle for mastery 183
8 Dare to know! 247
9 Hubris and Nemesis : 1789-1806 284
10 The world the bureaucrats made 312
11 A time of iron 345
12 God's march through history 388
13 Escalation 436
14 Splendour and misery of the Prussian revolution 468
15 Four wars 510
16 Merged into Germany 556
17 Endings 619
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