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

Iron Kingdom by Christopher Clark

Iron Kingdom by Christopher Clark

While I was sketching this review for Iron Kingdom, I noticed that a relatively recent review by thorold sums up nicely almost everything I was about to say.

Namely, the text’s breathtaking scope; its scientific and literary achievement; its clarity and readability; its lacunae with regard to the rise and aftermath of World War I; and its meticulous research that thoroughly debunks all those polarizing preconceptions which, attached to either authoritarian enthusiasm or salutary demonization, have outlived their dubious market value and overstayed their welcome long ago.

But it’s not that Clark minces words when it comes to support for Hitler from parts of the Prussian population, the ultra-nationalism and violent antisemitism of Prussia’s Protestant communities, or the partaking in the atrocities perpetrated by the SS, the Security Police, and, yes, the Deutsche Wehrmacht; and he is also very specific about the repulsive conduct of certain Prussian dignitaries, prominently among them, of course, von Hindenburg.

There were complaints that Christopher Clark doesn’t follow the timeline in some chapters but rather jumps back and forth. This is certainly true, but the reasons are good reasons: a thematic approach to historical periods is often more useful than following the enfolding of events, and complex historical developments and dependencies are often inaccessible from a serial-causal perspective.

Clark, Christopher. Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947. London: Penguin, 2007.
This review was also published at LibraryThing.

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