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A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People
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A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  303 ratings  ·  38 reviews
The word "German" was being used by the Romans as early as the mid–first century B.C. to describe tribes in the eastern Rhine valley. Nearly two thousand years later, the richness and complexity of German history have faded beneath the long shadow of the country's darkest hour in World War II. Now, award-winning historian Steven Ozment, whom The New Yorker has hailed as "a ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published January 18th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 2004)
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Mar 21, 2013 astried marked it as abandoned-half-way-through
Shelves: nlb
I give up. I got muddled so much reading this. I wonder if it's because I don't know much about European history, least of all those that happened during Roman time. Goth, Visigoth, Saxon all are a muddle... I usually very good at catching the big concept and filtering out the details; this book should be easy peasy since it dealt with the history so broadly, no beating the details out of the sack, time was vaguely reffered as the 300s, 500s and when I pick it up after taking a break from readin ...more
Lauren Albert
Presentation of many important events is bound to be cursory in such a short book about a long period of time. But Ozment does a good job covering the basics. He tries to show the roots of later events without trying to make them appear inevitable.

“In comparing the French and German models of enlightenment, many historians have deemed the German to be education for self-realization rather than for self-government—an aesthetic, or spiritual, preparation rather than a proper training for modern po
Dr. Steven Ozmet's A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the Germna People is an excellent survey of German history from the end of the Roman era to the coming of Euro. In the 325 pages of text, it would be impossible to deal in detail with battles and wars. However, Dr. Ozmet gives the social, political, economic, and artistic currents that lead up to and through those events, leaving other books to cover the details. Over all, it is an enjoiable and informative read.
All of us know about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Some of us know about Germany’s role in WWI. And fewer of us know about Germania’s role in the Roman Empire. But most of us don’t know about how Germany got from Roman to Nazi. This book is an EXCELLENT way to fill in that gap and should be read by anyone who is interested in/fuzzy about German history.
Germany wasn’t really Germany until Otto von Bismark pretty much forced its unity in the late 19th century. The country was many smaller “count
The first book I read (Germania) gave me visuals of various cities, arranging things in chronological order, while this is exactly what it says, a history of the people so you get glimpses of places while learning what happened. Steven Ozment writes in a most accessible way and even spent a page on my personal piece of Germany, Schlesweig-Holstein, although it did involve Austrian and Prussian soldiers tramping all over it. I have a clearer idea now as to how Germany got that way, the feeling th ...more
A recent history of Germany, written by a German. It is very good, very through, and very interesting. Even though I have taken German history in college, I have never read a book that so skillfully combined theology, macroeconomics, art, philosophy, psychology,music and history to describe a culture. History books aren't usually that interesting. The book also throughly describes German history, all several thousand years of it, not just the short Nazi time.
Do not go for this book if you are searching for a good introduction to the fascinating and complex history of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire. But if Merovingians, Carolingians, Charlemagne, Otto I, Henry IV, Hildebrand, Canossa, Frederick II Hohenstaufen, the Thirty Years' war, reformation, etc. already make some sense to you then this would be reasonably good quick review of what you already know and help you to understand today's Germany in its historical context.

The book is easy to read,
Tim Linder
If I had the choice I would most likely give this book a 3.5. I enjoyed it as a comprehensive surface study of German history and state structure, but I was not in love with it. I feel like Professor Ozment wanted to straddle two worlds here. It's not quite as in-depth as I would like for an academic study of the subject, but it also suffers from a lack of easy readability for a broader audience. I ended up getting bogged down in a few spots, particularly in the section concerning Luther and the ...more
Scott Klemm
Steven Ozment’s A Mighty Fortress bears the subtitle A New History of the German People. It is not a new history in the sense that it reveals new facts and information, but rather it is new in that it provides a fresh perspective of Germany’s history.

Most historians of the post World War II era have made Nazi Germany and the Holocaust the defining event – “the bookends of German history.” Hence, they believe it is their job to ferret out the protofascism in Germany’s past. Those strands of Germ
Not a bad review of German history for only 350 pages. I appreciate Ozment's attention to "German" history during the Middle Ages and the Reformation (the first half of the book only takes the reader up to the year 1600), but wished he would've spent more time covering the importance of the Thirty Years' War (especially since this did so much to influence German history in the first half of the 20th century) and of the gradual rise of Prussian hegemony over the other German lands between 1600 an ...more
I picked this off the library shelf at least in part because of the title, a clever association of German militarism with Luther's famous hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God". I'm a little ambivalent about the book. I like that Ozment looks at the entire 2500-year scope of German history, rather than dwelling on the 12 years between 1933 and 1945 as the centerpiece to define and explain an entire people. However, some of his generalizations come off as a bit arbitrary. I personally don't have any ...more
I picked this up because I'm going to Germany and wanted a better grasp on it's history. It's erudite and not for the faint of heart or anyone without a decent grasp of the basics. But, it was enjoying and illuminating, though sometimes soporific.
Andrew-Mario Hart-Grana
Steven Ozment's book is not for someone just looking up for a "traditional", full of facts, history of Germany. In fact, some basic knowledge is needed before any attempt to approach this complex and rich book is made. Ozment's "Mighty Fortress" is certainly a "new history" as it combines facts, with dense descriptions and interpretations of Germany's distant past and thriving present. Luckily it shifts from the temptations of many historians to read Germany's past through the prism of its histo ...more
Halldór Thorgeirsson
Gives good insights into the genesis of the German nation and its evolving identity. It is more about ideas and pivotal individuals than about facts and dates. The author is does not have an agenda (or if he does, he manages to keep it to him self) and addresses this important subject with warmth, respect and realism. The value of the book is magnified by the copious footnotes leading the reader to more background if he is so inclined. This book has helped me make sense of turning points in Germ ...more
Rachel Wexelbaum
I know it's not easy writing the long history of a nation like Germany, but come on--how can you forget about the Teutonic Knights and the Hanseatic League???
Sep 10, 2007 Tom rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people unfamiliar with german history
Not a bad book, but too general, and not enough raison d'etre. of the German people. The author gets a bit polemnical towards the end, as well, barely discussing the rise of Nazism and then defending it as a aberration. I think that is truer than not, but I didn't see a good thesis presented.

I didn't come away understanding more about the German people, and a lot of the history is glossed over. I got this book to understand how Germany could remain a "nation" without being unified for hundreds o
This book, besides being inaccurate, is dangerously revisionist. It was the first book we read in a grad seminar of German history, and I would still swear that he assigned it mainly to see who was brave enough to say the obvious. In this case, that was "he blames the Holocaust, which he misrepresents, on the 'outsider', the Austrian, Hitler. He thinks someone took those poor god-loving people astray." The book wasn't dry, it was somewhat compelling, but it was overwhelmingly inaccurate. It woul ...more
The author breezes over German history from the barbarian resistance of Roman expansion to German re-unification in the 1990s, and tries to define its history in large, sweeping generalities. Some of them are pretty interesting, especially as he tries to show Germany's long history of fearing anarchy more than authoritarianism, and why.

There were some interesting points in this book, especially after 1933, but by and large, this book absolutely put me to sleep every time I picked it up. Must be
Jake M.
A Mighty Fortress is a brisk history of one of Europe's most dynamic and divisive nations. Ozment covers the period of prehistory to Schroeder's government at the turn of the 21st century. The prose alternates between fluid and turgid which could have benefited from a vigilant editor. The broad contents is in contrast to the popular fascination with the Nazi period. As a result, it highlights other eras of interest for further study, or at the very least, provides a conversational knowledge of G ...more
John E
A lot of discussion of philosophy (probably because it is about Germany) and a lot of discussion of the German split over national and local allegiances. Seems to go out of his way to laud Luther and Bismark and to show that real Germans were not really supporters of Hitler. Not enough real history of Germany. Since it was supposed to be a history of the German people I was looking forward to much more on the life of the German people. I think my German ancestors would be disappointed in this bo ...more
Bryan Hill
I learned a few names and a general timeline, but this book was god-awful boring. I was a history minor, and have experience with the difference between well written academic history and dry, plodding, bludgeoning history. This is the kind of book that makes kids tune out to history in school and people gag when I mentioned that it was my minor. Sorry, Professor Ozment, you need a ghostwriter.
It was a bit of a data dump, and at points I did have a hard time breaking down the meaning of a particular long run on sentence. Did he mean this event actually caused a and not b? Or is this opposite of my thought process? I did like the format of where the book started and ended, since in modern times we tend to just have the history of Hitler being the entirety of European history.
I liked this book. It put German Nazism into the bigger German historical picture. The author traces part of the roots of Nazism to Hegelian philosophers. Example- p. 199- "The belief that momentary feelings of unity or visions of perfection can survive permanently into every life this side of eternity is the ante-room of nihilism and fascism."
Feb 02, 2013 Anne rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Interesting read about German History. Only found one error-hestated that Heinrich Himmler took over the Gestapo in 1932. Hermann Goering started the Gestapo in 1933 and the head was Rudolf Diels until April, 1934 when Himmler and Heydrich, the real monsters took over.
First I read Mary Fulbrook's Concise History of Germany, then this. It's more interpretive and highly readable. I'm not qualified to judge the interpretation, but . . . I know a lot more about Germany and Germans now, so I'm happy.
This was ok. The ideas presented seemed rather simplistic and sometimes felt more obvious than insightful. However, it isn't a bad introduction to German history-- people who want something deeper would be advised to look elsewhere.
Jun 14, 2007 Däv rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Germans and their decendents
By far the best work on the history of the german people (a quarter of my heritage) and perhaps one of the least dry general histories I've ever read... I recommend it to everyone with ancestors in mainland western europe
Mar 23, 2009 Radish is currently reading it
Shelves: blogworthy
Am leery of "new histories" but author thanks Victor Davis Hanson in the acknowledgments, so it can't be all crap. I'm mostly interested in Germany before Luther, and having a hard time finding stuff.
This is a great book for people who are interested in German culture an history. It gives a great background of the entire country, to those who dont know how interesting their history is.
Found it inadequate. Skipped whole centuries. For those like myself hoping to learn more---a disappointment. This is what I could learn in a general survey of Europe.
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