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

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

Written by Christopher Clark

Narrated by Shaun Grindell


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

Written by Christopher Clark

Narrated by Shaun Grindell

ratings:
4.5/5 (18 ratings)
Length:
28 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 14, 2017
ISBN:
9781515986027
Format:
Audiobook

Description

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.



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.
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 14, 2017
ISBN:
9781515986027
Format:
Audiobook


About the author

Christopher Clark is Professor of History at the University of Connecticut. His books include Social Change in America: From the Revolution through the Civil War.

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4.3
18 ratings / 17 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    This took a long time to get going, and parts of "Iron Kingdom" read like a masters thesis. As such, it took me a year or so to finish and it was only the last section or so, as Prussia grew into the biggest Germanic nation and into the jewel of the German Empire and then its downfall, with parts of Prussia now included in Poland, Russia and the Baltic nations.Will Prussia rise again? It seems distant but stranger things have happened and if they do I won't be so worried about its rebirth.
  • (5/5)
    Thorough description of the rise and fall of Prussia. A bit too thorough (I didn't finish it); the 2/3 or 3/4 I did read fulfilled my desire to learn about Prussia. It was interesting to read about the orphanage complex at Halle (illustration included), and the dry, sandy turfland on which a German empire was born.
  • (4/5)
    Good comprehensive read but it loses some narrative flow by talking through each period in terms of key issues and themes. This is interesting and detailed and gives a good feel of what is happening but it would have helped if there was a clear chronology of events discussed first to give the discussions context.
  • (4/5)
    Successful in combining narrative history and structural analysis. Its great achievement is in trying to engage its subject in and of itself, rather than in the context of the Third Reich. Rehabilitates much that is worthy of admiration in the Prussian achievement.
  • (4/5)
    Masterly history of Prussia, the vanished kingdom that lay at the base of the (Second) German Empire. It has been much reviled as a warmongering nation of merciless heel-clicking bureaucrats (thanks for that, Winston Churchill), but the author manages to prove that Prussia was also the cradle of German Enlightenment, a bulwark of Social Democracy against the rise of the Nazis and the crucible for social integration of Jews into German society. The pages on constitutional reform in the 18th and 19th centuries may only be of great interest to some, but overall this is a magnificent history of an undeservedly maligned and forgotten country.
  • (4/5)
    Give Clark credit for trying to achieve real perspective in the sweep of something like five-hundred years of history, so it's pointless to give out a laundry list of material covered. The main insight I come away from this book with is Clark's thesis that a unified Germany was not the ultimate end of the Prussian state, but that once achieved it's arguable that Prussia was rendered obsolete; smothered from above by Pan-Germanism and undercut from below by the localist attachment to "homeland." A process accelerated by the demise of the House of Prussia and the annihilation of German society in the Baltic lands that gave the state its name.To put it another way this book starts with Brandenburg and it ends with Brandenburg.
  • (3/5)
    The author clearly knows his subject, as he delivers tons of information about it. Usefull insights are, for instance, the fact that Prussia emerged out of the horror of the Thirty Year War, and that Prussia needed a strong army due to it's geographical location, surrounded by potential ennemies. It also interestingly illustrates the fact that the 'image' of Prussia as a strong-ruled military machine, where only the King decided, is false: local authorities had a lot of counter-balance - and sometimes prevented decisions by the King to have any effect at all. So a good book; however, some things are elaborated in too much detail, while others - the specific way some battles were fought, for instance - are too short.
  • (4/5)
    The Iron Kingdom is a fresh look at Prussia, and a correction of 20th Century propaganda against Germany's aggression during the two world wars. But the book is not about correcting propaganda, but an attempt to understand the nature of "Prussia" as a socio-political entity as it evolved over 300 years. Prussia was not "statism" nor urban in essence, but agrarian and provincial in the minds of its people. The traditional separation of the military from civilian authority explains much of how the Nazis could take over, and also explains the prominence of Prussian officers and others in efforts to depose Hitler.
  • (4/5)
    This book was a fascinating tour through the 350-year life of the Kingdom of Prussia, and it was packed with interesting facts and insights. Some of the book was heavy going, but this was more than compensated by the great amount of new (for me) information the author was able to impart.
  • (4/5)
    More difficult to read than The Sleepwalkers, but there is a (pricey) Dutch translation available which I hope to read in the near future. Two strange mistakes on page 666: the Rohm putsch is dated on 31 june 1934, and elsewhere he mentions Arthur Seyss-Inquest, where he surely means Seyss-Inquart...
  • (4/5)
    A good single volume account of how just one of many German states emerged as a power. We think of the Germans as a major military power in the 20th century, but before 1870 even the largest state, Prussia, got battered by the major powers surrounding them (France, Austria, and Russia).It's heavy on the politics and the conflicts and light on everyday life and culture, although it's not completely neglected. I would have liked to have seen the inclusion of a family tree of the monarchs and a section on suggested reading.It seems that the British considered the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo their own victory. This is not true; it was the German forces who won this battle, and in particular the Prussian army. I hadn't known that until I read this book.
  • (4/5)
    The book is considered the definitive book on Prussia. Prospective readers should have a rough idea of European history. This book is tightly focused on Prussia, so it lacks the external context some may require. International politics is a smaller part than probably expected, though, with an emphasis on the social, cultural and economic conditions that shaped Prussia's identity. The words "identity," "idea," and "perception" are key themes with this book.The author is very balanced - perhaps too nuanced. You and all your octopus friends run out of limbs long before he metaphorically runs out of "on the other hand." He tends to point out particular views and then reinforce them, counter them, or give them more shading. These views may be popular, once popular, dominant, widely accepted or promoted by groups with particular interests in mind. When dealing with Prussia, like America, the reader confronts a nation that is coherent because of an idea, rather than shared genetics, religion, or history, so "views" matter both internally and externally. It was the perception of Prussian identity that won over the Austrian to become the German image. It was when Prussian identity was conflated with Nazi militarism for propaganda purposes inside and outside the Third Reich that the Allies extinguished Prussia after WW2.With a long view of progress, Clark does not ignore progress' troubles or the comfort of tradition and custom. This awareness is also critical when discussing Prussia, with its firmly rooted culture and cutting edge governance. Few of us in America have received an adequate education on this immensely influential state - despite its role in virtually every major European event for several hundred years. I enjoyed reading of Prussia's many contributions, for better or worse, to the evolving conception of the state, its roles, duties, responsibilities, and participants. My only complaint is that I never got a feel for Bismarck. All of the Fredericks, Williams, and Frederick Williams were portrayed well enough, but Bismarck is left vague, perhaps because he was only the PM and not the emperor. The editing is good with no obvious typos.
  • (4/5)
    Thorough, comprehensive history of one of the most interesting military states in history, and its rise and fall over the centuries. Thick with detail.
  • (3/5)
    A weird thing about this book is that it explains what was going on in Prussia in detail at multiple points, but assumes that the reader knows exactly what else is going on in other parts of Europe at the same time. Maybe I’m too transnational (and also I don’t actually recall enough detail of my European history) but there were constant references to the other German states without really explaining what made them German too or what the differences were. It didn’t help that the chapters jumped back and forth in time a bunch because they were only sort-of chronological and sort-of about culture, religion, etc. in particular periods.
  • (4/5)
    Prussia was an unlikely candidate to become a great power. Yet from the economically unpromising Brandenberg region, Prussia eventually established itself as a European power, ultimately coalescing the various states of Germany into a single, powerful nation. The question of how this took place is at the heart of Christopher Clark's book, a valuable survey of the three centuries of Prussia's rise, dominance, and eventual dissolution after World War II. It is a very Carlylean tale in his telling, giving much of the credit for the success Prussia enjoyed to its leadership, particularly the remarkably capable series of rulers in the 17th and 18th centuries. Together they used a combination of careful alliances, agreements, and marriages to expand their holdings, to the point where they dominated northern Germany by the early 19th century. The country which subsequently emerged was in many respects "Prussia plus," with Prussian institutions doubling in some instances as the main organ of government for all of Germany. Though this changed after World War I, the loss of the kaiser -- the dominant figure in the Prussian constitution -- left a hole that was largely unfilled until Adolf Hitler's rise to power during the Great Depression.

    Clark's book describes all of this in an assured and well-sourced narrative that surveys the broader social and cultural context for Prussia's emergence. It is by far the best account of Prussia's modern history, one that is unlikely to be bettered for the foreseeable future. For anyone seeking a useful overview for anyone interested in learning about the emergence and collapse of this vanished kingdom and European power, this is the book to read.
  • (4/5)
    Recommendation: If you are looking for an in depth history of Prussia and pre-WWII Germany look no further. As a bonus there is a wealth of information on the Napoleonic Wars, the causes for the rise of the Third Reich and Kantian Philosophy. It takes some work but very rewarding.Other readers have noted that this book takes a great deal of work to get "into" and I suppose that is true but it is extremely rewarding. This is not something that you sit down with and lightly read, it does take some effort and I can't imagine reading it without access to the Internet and the ability to look up many of the references. This is incredibly well researched and offers a wide range of topics to interest any historical reader. Personally, the descriptions of the enlightenment era of Frederick the Great and the strategies of the later Napoleonic Wars (presented from the Prussian viewpoint) were eye opening and I learned a great deal. I also found the section on Rosa Luxemburg and the Weimar riots excellent. Any book that forces you to delve deeper into other subjects and broaden your understanding is rare indeed and this book kept me searching. There is also a very well written discussion of the Battle of Jena-Auerstadt and you do come to understand how amazing it is that in a relatively short period of existence Prussia was amazingly influential.Clark's premise is that the Allies over reacted by eliminating Prussia after WWII is a little more curious. After completing the book and rereading certain sections it seemed to me that he was even in doubt on the subject, it seemed as if the end of Prussia was both necessary and inevitable.I really do recommend this book and will leave it off with the essential quote from Rosa Luxemburg, because any society that can produce thought this insightful deserves to be remembered: Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of a party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of the dissenter. Not because of the fanaticism of "justice", but rather because all that is instructive, wholesome, and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effects cease to work when "freedom" becomes a privilege.
  • (5/5)
    A fascinating account of Prussian history, much more readable than its bulk (350 years in a shade under 700 pages, plus notes) would suggest. The book is apparently intended to be accessible to the general reader, and Clark fills in quite a lot of background in the earlier chapters, a relief to those of us who can't always remember which was the Thirty Years' and which the Seven Years' War. In the later chapters we have to fend for ourselves a bit: probably rightly, he assumes that we will know the broad outlines of World War I, the Versailles settlement, and World War II, but we do get plenty of detail about the disagreements between the Prussian state government and the Weimar Republic that contributed to Hitler's rise to power.While the straightforward historical narrative is clear and informative, Clark seems to be at his best when exploring the cultural resonances of the events he describes. The discussion of Kaiser Wilhelm II as indefatigable public speaker, or the analysis of the effects of the Pietist movement in the protestant church are very interesting, as is the account of Frederick the Great as simultaneously the embodiment of liberal, enlightenment values and the king who invaded Poland "because he could". At the same time as taking us through the outline of Prussian history, the book is an analysis of and a response to the way that the idea of "Prussia" has developed and been represented by historians and others. Clark tries to show that the reality was always much more diverse and complicated than concepts like "militarism", "efficiency" and "absolutism" can allow for. In particular, Prussia has to be seen as a constantly-changing assembly of provinces, all with different ethnic and religious compositions, and with their own more or less robust and distinctive local government structures. A lot to think about...