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)
"...Bismarck: A Life is the best study of its subject in the English language." -- Henry A. Kissinger, New York Times Book Review
"Fascinating biography...Mr. Steinberg breathes more life into Bismarck than any other biographer, thanks to an unusual scholarly method: He shifts the normal balance between analysis and evidence decisively in favor of the latter...The result is riveting, and we experience Bismarck as a hulking, breathing presence." --The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal "Book of the Year" selection ("[T]he best biography of the Iron Chancellor to date." --Simon Sebag Montefiore)
"A first-rate biography that combines a standard historical narrative with an intriguing account of Bismarck as a personality...Bismarck offers a fresh and compelling portrait of a fascinating character." -- ForeignAffairs.com
"Bismarck: A Life is a readable, engrossing...biography about the father of the Fatherland, a man who made Germany and remade Europe without a mandate, a crown or an army." -- Dallas Morning News
"This is the best one-volume life of Bismarck in English, much superior to older works. It brings us close to this galvanic, contradictory and ultimately self-destructive figure...Steinberg has an eye for details...and a talent for reconstructing the political drama of the period."-- The Guardian
"Steinberg...brings a fresh perspective to the subject in a single volume whose insights and presentation make it no less canonical than its predecessors." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Jonathan Steinberg's magnificent biography brings out the monstrous egotism of Bismarck more clearly than anyone before him...Steinberg has brilliantly transformed this man of 'blood and irony' into a tragic figure worthy to be compared with Goethe's Faust." -- New Criterion
"The Bismarck story is an oft-told one, and oft-told with a political or social agenda guiding the biographer's pen. Otto Pflanze's magisterial 1990 three-volume work set a new standard for Bismarck biographies and, more recently, Edgar Feuchtwanger's 'Imperial Germany 1850-1918' moved us beyond the standard Bismarck mythology. Jonathan Steinberg's 'Bismarck: A Life' fits neatly into this estimable body of work as a serious, politically detached, study...Steinberg's analysis achieves a degree of personal and political objectivity while avoiding an oversimplification of his political and governmental achievements...his purpose is neither to praise nor vilify the statesman. Rather, he aims to understand and explain Bismarck's profound success story: his brilliant strategies and tactics in bringing together the German states into a unified polity. In this, 'Bismarck: A Life' is a success story itself." -- Forward
"Portrays a fascinating picture of Germany, as well as its culture and politics...Jonathan Steinberg's biography is timely and necessary...Steinberg has written a compelling, readable and important book." -- Jerusalem Post
"If scholars and history buffs want to meet Bismarck in flesh and blood, they need go no further. Steinberg's integration of psychological insights and Bismarck's political strategies yields a worthy biography." -- Booklist
"Those with a serious interest in the subject will find it an intriguing one-volume addition to existing long works on Bismarck." -- Library Journal
"The best biography of the Iron Chancellor to date." -- Simon Sebag Montefiore, Wall Street Journal
"Other Bismarck biographies have been written, but what is unique about steinberg's is his effort to give voice to Bismarck's contemories - how they percieved and experienced him."-- Christian Century
"The book will probably become the standard work in English for some time to come. Essential." -- Choice
"This book offers much to praise. An eminent historian has written a biography of Otto von Bismarck for a popular audience. The prose is engaging, the account gripping." --German Studies Review
“Adrienne Harrison’s important, engaging, and eye-opening book demolishes the conventional wisdom about George Washington. Whoever thinks he was first in war and first in peace but last among his peers as a man of the Enlightenment needs to think again. Harrison proves that Washington, a bibliophile, commanded a world of ideas.”—Robert M. S. McDonald, associate professor of history at the United States Military Academy and editor of Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés
“Harrison argues persuasively that Washington read extensively. . . . [She] has effectively penetrated Washington’s mind and found it filled with books that he both owned and read.”—Theodore J. Crackel, editor in chief emeritus of the Papers of George Washington and professor emeritus at the University of Virginia
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