Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Iron Kingdom - The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600 to 1947 by Christopher Clark (2008, 800 pages)

I offer my great thanks to Max u for the Amazon Gift Card that allowed me to read this book

Normally I am reading from three to six books.  I try always to have at least one non-fiction work in the mix.  I have been reading a lot of German language fiction (in translation) of late so I wanted to learn a bit more about German history.  I have read a number of works dealing with the Holocaust in the last few months and I wanted to see if  Joseph Roth was right when he said that Prussian culture and tradition reach their culmination in Nazism.   This is the big question for me at least.

Iron Kingdom The Downfall of Prussia 1600 to 1947 by Christopher Clark is a first rate work of serious scholarship that also serves the needs of the general reader.  It focuses a lot on military affairs and the personality of the rulers rather than on the daily life of the average person.  I would have enjoyed learning more about the lives of the common people.   There is a lot of material on Prussia's relationships with other German states and with neighboring countries.  Lots of Fredericks  here!  We learn about the role of the Prussian aristocracy, the Junkers, in Prussian affairs. The most famous Junker was Chancellor Otto von Bismark who basically turned Prussian and from that Germany into a powerful military state.  Clark goes into how Prussia was a culture of obedience to the state and the social consequences of this.

In the closing chapters Clark talks about the role of Prussian Junkers in Nazi Germany.  Many Junkers were still in the period 1933 to 1945 old school aristocrats who looked down on Hitler and the kind of people he surrounded himself with as persons they simply would not voluntarily even socialize with.  Junkers were behind several plots to assassinate Hitler.  This was not so much because they hated his ideology but because they thought he would end up destroying the Prussian state.  On the other side, Clark tells us that many, probably most, Junkers were enthusiastic supporters of Nazism.  Many were involved in top military positions and in the management and administration of the Holocaust.  

This is the first large scale book on Prussian history which I have read.  I am glad I read it.  

Of the 800 pages of this book, 220 is devoted to footnotes, acknowledgements, bibliography and such.  I know this is part of the requirements of serious academic writing but these pages run up the price of the book.  I wonder if authors could instead create online files of at least the refrence foot notes and just include a link to them in the book for those interested.  Just a thought.

Mel u

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