1) The book I have reviewed, Bismarck, is a complex look at the life of the
German legend, and is certainly intended for historians not unlike the author himself. Palmer does not exclude any part of the man’s life even dwelling into his childhood and adolescence. His attention to details is very apparent, even to his own admission, using public and private letters written by Bismarck himself. This book is not intended for a student looking for a little more information on the subject, nor the minimal information needed to satisfy the general public. The book was obviously written by someone who greatly admired Bismarck, and spared no expense in writing as much as he could about him.
2) Otto Van Bismarck was born April 1st 1815, son of mother Wilhelmine von Bismarck, and father Ferdinand, a Prussian landowner. He studied at Gottingen and Berlin, and after holding minor administrative offices he was elected to the Prussian Landtag in 1847. While in the Landtag, he advocated the unification of Germany under the aegis of Prussia, and was opposed to the liberal movements. He gained the position of ambassador to St. Petersburg, in 1859, and soon after became the ambassador to Paris in 1862. There he would gain much insight and experience that would determine his future policies.
Bismarck was appointed premier by the King of Prussia, William I, in the king’s effort to secure his military program, which was strongly opposed by the parliament. With his new position Bismarck ultimately, instigated the Austro-Prussian War, as well as the Franco-Prussian War, in order to rid the German Confederation, and fully unify Germany. A struggle for power ensued between Bismarck and William II, which finished with Bismarck’s dismissal and finally his retirement.
1) The author of this book, Alan Palmer, is a reliable historian educated at Oxford University. He is an expert in European History and even headed the History Department in Highgate School. He left his post of sixteen years to concentrate on historical writing and research. He went on to publish eighteen books on numerous leaders and empires of Europe. His work includes, Napoleon in Russia, Alexander I: Tsar of War and Peace, The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire and many more.
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...eveled in it. His credentials were well established having graduated from Oxford and writing many other books based on the same period of time in Europe.
The book was written very straightforward, and did not zig zag from different periods of time, but instead stayed in a chronological order, which helped the book flow easily from one event to the other. The book also stayed on topic, never straying off the topic of Bismarck, and remaining a biography, rather than a history book. Bismarck’s nature and personality were shown through examples such as letters, articles and speeches.
The author also stayed true to his word, and did not force his own opinions or interests into the book. The author left it up to facts to prove his own feelings, and did not mettle with history in order to preserve his own feelings. He showed Bismarck as a great, but not perfect man. In closing, I would recommend this book to anyone with a strong interest in Germany, and someone who wanted to know more about the man who helped create it.
Copyright 1976 by Alan Palmer
Copyright under the Berne Convention
Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York
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