Iron Kingdom : The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947, Paperback

Iron Kingdom : The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Winner of the Wolfson History Prize, Christopher Clark's "Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947" is a compelling account of a country that played a pivotal role in Europe's fortunes and fundamentally shaped our world.

Prussia began as a medieval backwater, but transformed itself into a major European power and the force behind the creation of the German empire, until it was finally abolished by the Allies after the Second World War.

With great flair and authority, Christopher Clark describes Prussia's great battles, dynastic marriages and astonishing reversals of fortune, its brilliant and charismatic leaders from the Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg to Bismarck and Frederick the Great, the military machine and the progressive, enlightened values on which it was built. "Fascinating ...masterly ...littered with intriguing detail and wry observation". (Richard Overy, "Daily Telegraph"). "A terrific book ...the definitive history of this much-maligned state". ("Daily Telegraph Books of the Year"). "You couldn't have the triumph and the tragedy of Prussia better told". ("Observer"). "A magisterial history of Europe's only extinct power". ("Financial Times"). "Exemplary illuminating, profoundly satisfying work of history". ("The New York Times"). Christopher Clark is a lecturer in Modern European History at St Catharine's College, University of Cambridge.

He is also the author of "Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power".


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 816 pages, BW integrated
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Humamities
  • ISBN: 9780140293340



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

A fascinating account of Prussian history, much more readable than its bulk (350 years in a shade under 700 pages, plus notes) would suggest. The book is apparently intended to be accessible to the general reader, and Clark fills in quite a lot of background in the earlier chapters, a relief to those of us who can't always remember which was the Thirty Years' and which the Seven Years' War. In the later chapters we have to fend for ourselves a bit: probably rightly, he assumes that we will know the broad outlines of World War I, the Versailles settlement, and World War II, but we do get plenty of detail about the disagreements between the Prussian state government and the Weimar Republic that contributed to Hitler's rise to power.While the straightforward historical narrative is clear and informative, Clark seems to be at his best when exploring the cultural resonances of the events he describes. The discussion of Kaiser Wilhelm II as indefatigable public speaker, or the analysis of the effects of the Pietist movement in the protestant church are very interesting, as is the account of Frederick the Great as simultaneously the embodiment of liberal, enlightenment values and the king who invaded Poland "because he could". At the same time as taking us through the outline of Prussian history, the book is an analysis of and a response to the way that the idea of "Prussia" has developed and been represented by historians and others. Clark tries to show that the reality was always much more diverse and complicated than concepts like "militarism", "efficiency" and "absolutism" can allow for. In particular, Prussia has to be seen as a constantly-changing assembly of provinces, all with different ethnic and religious compositions, and with their own more or less robust and distinctive local government structures. A lot to think about...

Review by

Masterly history of Prussia, the vanished kingdom that lay at the base of the (Second) German Empire. It has been much reviled as a warmongering nation of merciless heel-clicking bureaucrats (thanks for that, Winston Churchill), but the author manages to prove that Prussia was also the cradle of German Enlightenment, a bulwark of Social Democracy against the rise of the Nazis and the crucible for social integration of Jews into German society. The pages on constitutional reform in the 18th and 19th centuries may only be of great interest to some, but overall this is a magnificent history of an undeservedly maligned and forgotten country.