Iron Kingdom is subtitled The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947. It tells the history of the Hohenzollern dynasty and beyond from their days as Electors in Brandenburg, the Mark around Berlin through their becoming kings in Prussia, one of their possessions which lay outside the Holy Roman Empire and so could become a Kingdom, through the Bismarckian conquest and unification of Prussia into Germany and the Hohenzollerns becoming Kaisers of the new Reich, through the dynasty's end with the closure of the First World War, to the decreed abolition of Prussia after the Second World War.
It is a well written book in that it alternates my kind of history (kings and battles) with social history so that I never got too bored by the latter. It is however, long (688 pages); despite this there were times when I wanted to know more. There were moments when I felt the author assumed I knew more than I did: for example, he talks about thalers and groschen as if I can understand their relative values. At other times he is simply too brief. There is almost no mention of either the First or Second World War as if these were German events which did not affect Prussia. I would have liked to know more about Kaiser Bill and the Franco-Prussian war.
There are times when the language departs from academic and becomes more compelling: his description of a poetic epic containing fragmented scenes as being like a film shot with a hand-held camcorder is evocative.
The author does not like Hindenburg! Hindenburg was c-in-c of German forces on the Eastern front during the First World War. "He blackmailed the Kaiser, to whom he professed the deepest personal loyalty .... it was a systematic insubordination born of vast ambition and an utter disregard of any interest or authority outside the military hierarchy he himself dominated ... Hindenburg deliberately cultivated the national obsession with his own person, projecting an image of an indomitable German warrior .... Although Hindenburg was among those who urged William II to abdicate and flee to Holland in November 1918, he subsequently shrouded himself in the mantle of a principled monarchism .... In the last days of September 1918, Hindenburg urgently pressed the German civilian government to initiate ceasefire negotiations, yet he later disassociated himself entirely from the resulting peace, leaving the civilians to carry the responsibility and the opprobrium. On 17 June 1919, when the government of Friedrich Ebery was deliberating over whether to accept the terms of the Versailles Treaty, Hindenburg conceded in writing that further military resistance would be hopeless. Yet .... he claimed in November 1919 ... that the German armies in the field had not been vanquished by the enemy powers, but by a cowardly 'stab in the back' from the home front .... As a military commander and later as Germany's head of state, Hindenburg broke virtually every bond he entered into. He was not the man of dogged, faithful service, but the man of image, manipulation and betrayal." (pages 653-4)
June 2009, 688 pages
- Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57