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

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Harvard University Press, 2006 - History - 775 pages

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.


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User Review  - MiaCulpa -

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 ... Read full review

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User Review  - Schatkoffer - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review


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Gods March through History
Splendour and Misery of the Prussian Revolution
Four Wars
Merged into Germany

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The World the Bureaucrats Made

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About the author (2006)

Christopher Clark is a noted historian. He is the twenty-second Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge. In 2015 he was knighted for his services to Anglo-German relations. Clark is the author of The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947, Culture Wars: Secular-Catholic Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Europe, Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power, and The Politics of Conversion: Missionary Protestantism and the Jews in Prussia, 1728-1941. Clark won the Wolfson History Prize and the Queensland Premier's Literary Award in 2007 for Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947. His book The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914.

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