Bismarck by Jonathan Steinberg
A Life

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This is the life story of one of the most interesting human beings who ever lived. A political genius who remade Europe and united Germany between 1862 and 1890 by the sheer power of his great personality. It takes the reader into close proximity with a human being of almost superhuman abilities. We see him through the eyes of his secretaries, his old friends, his neighbours, his enemies and the press.

Otto von Bismarck 'made' Germany but never 'ruled' it. For twenty eight years he acted as a prime minister without a party. He made speeches, brilliant in content but hesitant in delivery, and rarely addressed a public meeting. He planned three wars and after a certain stage in his career always wore military uniform to which he had no claim. The 'Iron Chancellor', the image of Prussian militarism, suffered from hypochondria and hysteria.

Contemporaries called him a 'dictator' and several observers credited him with 'demonic' powers'. They were not wrong. The sheer power of his remarkable 'sovereign sel' awed even his enemies. William I observed that it was hard to be emperor under a man like Bismarck. He towered physically and intellectually over his contemporaries. His spoken and written prose sparkled with wit, insight, grand visions and petty malice. He united Germany and transformed Europe like Napoleon before and Hitler
after him but with neither their control of the state nor command of great armies. He was and remained a royal servant.

This new biography explores the greatness and limits of a huge and ultimately destructive self. It uses the diaries and letters of his contemporaries to explore the most remarkable figure of the nineteenth century, a man who never said a dull thing or wrote a slack sentence. A political genius who combined creative and destructive traits, generosity and pettiness, tolerance and ferocious enmity, courtesy and rudeness - in short, not only the most important nineteenth-century statesman but by
far the most entertaining.

About Jonathan Steinberg

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Jonathan Steinberg 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.
Published February 17, 2011 by Oxford University Press, USA. 592 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, War. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Bismarck

The New York Times

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This incisive biography takes a psychological approach to describing the highly complex man who unified Germany and dominated European diplomacy during the late 19th century.

Mar 31 2011 | Read Full Review of Bismarck: A Life

The Guardian

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Steinberg also has sparkling vignettes of secondary figures such as Bismarck's close friend from student days, the American historian John Lothrop Motley, who wrote a novel featuring a thinly-disguised "Otto von Rabenmarck", and Albrecht von Roon, the general and war minister who first met the 19...

Mar 18 2011 | Read Full Review of Bismarck: A Life

The Wall Street Journal

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Bismarck made Germany into Europe's most powerful country—and permanently poisoned its politics

Apr 09 2011 | Read Full Review of Bismarck: A Life

The Telegraph

Sitting for his portrait, sometime in 1890, the 75-year-old Prince Bismarck (pictured on the jacket of Jonathan Steinberg’s engrossing study) appears positively benign.

Apr 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Bismarck: A Life

Open Letters Monthly

For almost thirty years, first as a crown minister of Prussia and then as Chancellor of the Germany he himself united, Otto von Bismarck ruled the country over which his succession of kings – Wilhelm I, Frederick III, and Wilhelm II – actually reigned.

May 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Bismarck: A Life

Bookmarks Magazine

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.

Apr 10 2011 | Read Full Review of Bismarck: A Life

BBC History Magazine

Otto von Bismarck (1815–98) is a wonderful gift to a biographer: he was not just the Reichsgründer (empire founder) who created a united Germany by instigating successful wars with his neighbours, he was literally huge;

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Oxford University Press's Blog

with a liberal Germany in the center of Europe, rather than the overbearing monarchy described by Dr. Steinberg, it is quite possible that all of the blessings Bismarck brought to a united Germany, might have been further expanded under the rule of an enlightened King (Friedrich).

May 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Bismarck: A Life

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