Bismarck: A Life

Jonathan Steinberg, Oxford Univ., $34.95 (544p) ISBN 978-0-19-978252-9
For over two decades the study of Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898) has been structured by the seminal multivolume works of Lothar Gall and Otto Pflanze. Steinberg (Yesterday's Deterrent), a professor of modern European history at the University of Pennsylvania, brings a fresh perspective to the subject in a single volume whose insights and presentation make it no less canonical than its predecessors. Steinberg's Bismarck is a man whose power came not from the external "forces and factors," as stated by Gall and Pflanze, but from "the sovereignty of an extraordinary, gigantic self." He embodied Hegel's concept of a world-historical figure: shaping events and people by the potency of his intellect, the force of his character, and the strength of his will. Yet Steinberg demonstrates that Bismarck's rise and survival depended on his relationship to King William I. Serving as prime minister at the pleasure of William I, Devoid of any principle beyond the exercise of power, defining politics as struggle in domestic and international contexts, he singlehandedly "brought about a complete transformation in the European international order." As Steinberg relates, he fostered enmity in order to resolve conflict. The results were a restless Reich, an antagonistic Europe, and eventually a world war. B&w photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/17/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Hardcover - 592 pages - 978-0-19-959901-1
Paperback - 583 pages - 978-0-19-964242-7
Paperback - 577 pages - 978-0-19-997539-6
Ebook - 592 pages - 978-0-19-978266-6
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