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

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

by Christopher ClarkChristopher Clark


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674031968
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 02/28/2009
Pages: 800
Sales rank: 106,062
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Christopher Clark is Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge and Ostrer Professorial Fellow in History at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Maps



1. The Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg

2. Devastation

3. An Extraordinary Light in Germany

4. Majesty

5. Protestants

6. Powers in the Land

7. Struggle for Mastery

8. Dare to Know!

9. Hubris and Nemesis: 1789-1806

10. The World the Bureaucrats Made

11. A Time of Iron

12. God's March through History

13. Escalation

14. Splendour and Misery of the Prussian Revolution

15. Four Wars

16. Merged into Germany

17. Endings



What People are Saying About This

William Hagen

Lucid, learned, and light-touched, this comprehensive history of the Prussian state and the society it molded eclipses its rivals, both Anglo-American and German. Its well-crafted narrative form is reader-friendly, while the interpretation it offers will impress seasoned specialists with its sophistication, knowledgeability, and freedom from stereotype and ideas of predetermined destiny. It will be required reading for all students of the history of modern Germany.
William Hagen, author of Ordinary Prussians: Brandenburg Junkers and Villagers, 1500-1840

Charles S. Maier

Prussia was a project for state power invented by monarchs and landlords, generals and civil servants from the vulnerable provinces of north central Europe -- slowly mobilizing civic loyalties and reinvented for an age of German nationalism and encroaching democracy. In this epic volume, Christopher Clark enriches classic scholarship with the most recent findings to write Prussia's 500-year story from its unpromising Brandenburg origins through its manipulation by the Nazis and final dissolution by the postwar Allies as the byword for German aggression.
Charles S. Maier, author of Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors

Geoff Eley

Chris Clark's new history of Prussia trumps all existing accounts. It commands four centuries of complicated history with extraordinary assurance. Its clear and confident argumentation, illuminating concreteness of detail, and sheer richness of texture make it the ideal general history.
Geoff Eley, author of A Crooked Line: From Cultural History to the History of Society

James Simpson

This book is everything its subject is supposed not to be: it's sparkling, light-footed and intellectually supple at every turn. Even more refreshingly, it narrates the story of a Prussia that was itself the source of much that was socially and intellectually progressive. The history of Prussia is a history of the West: we are all Prussians one way or another. This humane book, with its unflagging narrative sweep and deftness of touch, reveals the truth of that surprising statement.
James Simpson, author of Reform and Cultural Revolution

James J. Sheehan

Clark's great accomplishment is to tell the story of the Prussian state's rise and fall in a splendid and compelling way. His interpretation is a sustained critique of the still widely accepted view of Prussia's deviation from the western norm that led to the catastrophes of war and dictatorship in the twentieth century. Iron Kingdom is by far the best account of Prussia in English and as good as anything I know in German as well.
James J. Sheehan, President of the American Historical Association

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