Synopses & Reviews
This riveting, New York Times
bestselling biography illuminates the life of Otto von Bismarck, the statesman who unified Germany but who also embodied everything brutal and ruthless about Prussian culture.
Jonathan Steinberg draws heavily on contemporary writings, allowing Bismarck's friends and foes to tell the story. What rises from these pages is a complex giant of a man: a hypochondriac with the constitution of an ox, a brutal tyrant who could easily shed tears, a convert to an extreme form of evangelical Protestantism who secularized schools and introduced civil divorce. Bismarck may have been in sheer ability the most intelligent man to direct a great state in modern times. His brilliance and insight dazzled his contemporaries. But all agreed there was also something demonic, diabolical, overwhelming, beyond human attributes, in Bismarck's personality. He was a kind of malign genius who, behind the various postures, concealed an ice-cold contempt for his fellow human beings and a drive to control and rule them. As one contemporary noted: "the Bismarck regime was a constant orgy of scorn and abuse of mankind, collectively and individually."
In this comprehensive and expansive biography--a brilliant study in power--Jonathan Steinberg brings Bismarck to life, revealing the stark contrast between the "Iron Chancellor's" unmatched political skills and his profoundly flawed human character.
"For over two decades the study of Otto von Bismarck (1815 1898) has been structured by the seminal multivolume works of Lothar Gall and Otto Pflanze. Steinberg (Yesterday's Deterrent), a professor of modern European history at the University of Pennsylvania, brings a fresh perspective to the subject in a single volume whose insights and presentation make it no less canonical than its predecessors. Steinberg's Bismarck is a man whose power came not from the external 'forces and factors,' as stated by Gall and Pflanze, but from 'the sovereignty of an extraordinary, gigantic self.' He embodied Hegel's concept of a world-historical figure: shaping events and people by the potency of his intellect, the force of his character, and the strength of his will. Yet Steinberg demonstrates that Bismarck's rise and survival depended on his relationship to King William I. Serving as prime minister at the pleasure of William I, Devoid of any principle beyond the exercise of power, defining politics as struggle in domestic and international contexts, he singlehandedly 'brought about a complete transformation in the European international order.' As Steinberg relates, he fostered enmity in order to resolve conflict. The results were a restless Reich, an antagonistic Europe, and eventually a world war. B&w photos. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
For three decades, Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) was the power behind the German throne; he was almost single-handedly responsible for the creation of modern Germany. As Steinberg will show, Bismarck's brilliance and insight dazzled and intimidated his contemporaries-friends and foes-and he was a talented writer who composed sparkling prose for most of his career. In sheer ability, Bismarck may have been the most intelligent man to direct a great state in modern times. Yet he was also a hypochondriac and a glutton who suffered from paranoia and was prone to fits of rage. He was not a member of the aristocracy, nor a decorated war hero (his military experience was slight), nor had personal wealth. Nonetheless, Bismarck was without question the most fearsome and feared figure in 19th century European history, and his legacy shaped the entire 20th century as well. In this comprehensive and expansive biography-a study in power-Jonathan Steinberg brings Bismarck to life, revealing the stark contrast between the Iron Chancellor's unmatched political skills and his deeply flawed character.
His formal schooling abruptly cut off at age eleven, George Washington saw his boyhood dream of joining the British army evaporate and recognized that even his aspiration to rise in colonial Virginian agricultural society would be difficult. Throughout his life he faced challenges for which he lacked the academic foundations shared by his more highly educated contemporaries. Yet Washington’s legacy is clearly not one of failure.
Breaking new ground in Washington scholarship and American revolutionary history, Adrienne M. Harrison investigates the first president’s dedicated process of self-directed learning through reading, a facet of his character and leadership long neglected by historians and biographers. In A Powerful Mind, Harrison shows that Washington rose to meet these trials through a committed campaign of highly focused reading, educating himself on exactly what he needed to do and how best to do it. In contrast to other famous figures of the revolution—Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin—Washington did not relish learning for its own sake, viewing self-education instead as a tool for shaping himself into the person he wanted to be. His two highest-profile and highest-risk endeavors—commander in chief of the Continental Army and president of the fledgling United States—are a testament to the success of his strategy.
About the Author
is the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Modern European History at the University of Pennsylvania, and Emeritus Fellow, Trinity Hall, Cambridge. His books include Yesterday's Deterrent: Tirpitz and the Birth of the German Battle Fleet
and All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941 - 1943
Table of Contents
Introduction Bismarck: Sovereign Self
2. Bismarck: born Prussian and what that meant
3. Bismarck: the 'Mad Junker'
4. Bismarck Represents Himself, 1847 to 1851
5. Bismarck as Diplomat 1851-1862
7. "I have beaten them all! All!"
8. The Unification of Germany 1866 to 1870
9. The Decline Begins: Liberals and Catholics
10. "The Guest House of the Dead Jew"
11. Three Kaisers and Bismarck's Fall from Power
Conclusions Bismarck and His Legacy