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Frederick the Great: The Magnificent Enigma
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Frederick the Great: The Magnificent Enigma

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  91 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
A cradle-to-the-grave of one of the most intriguing rulers in history, King Frederick the Great who raised the small kingdom of Prussia to major power status in the turbulent military and political struggles of the 18th century. A cruel childhood forced him to lie, deceive and cheat in order to enjoy, if only for brief periods, the life of an intellectual. Once on the ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 715 pages
Published October 1st 1986 by Ticknor & Fields/The Houghton Mifflin Company
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Nov 20, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it
Hmmm, an ambitious ruler in Berlin, insecure but arrogant, hungering for new territories, Poland dismembered and split up with Russia, surrounded by enemies, a professional German army, launching preemptive attacks against neighbors, outnumbered, fighting on two (or more) fronts, winter wars, scorched earth…..and it happens in the 18th Century, foreshadowing the 20th Century repeats.

Based on my clearly substandard knowledge of early to mid-18th century Europe, I will have to give this one 4.5 St
Nov 01, 2012 Clif rated it really liked it
The "Magnificent Enigma" was a man who, though raised by a martinet in a militarist society, turned out to be a man of the Enlightenment, a flautist, composer, philosopher, a man who summoned Voltaire in order to be taught by him.

He survived a youth being continually ridiculed and beaten by his coarse father, Frederick William, who thought him effeminate, a cardinal sin for a man, let alone a king, in Prussia. The author devotes a good part of the book describing continual humiliations, such as
This biography reads like a long (LONG) lecture by a professor who speaks in a monotone but somehow captivates the room. There's a strong wit buried under all those words. The book opens strong, with lots of family drama and biographical detail, and introduces you to a number of personalities (August the Strong, in particular, comes to mind) who you kind of wish had greater parts to play in the story of Frederick's life. Asprey offers excellent accounts of the major battles in the Silesian Wars ...more
Doug Mcnair
Oct 07, 2011 Doug Mcnair rated it really liked it
Shelves: european-history
A nicely written book that does a good job of combining biography with military history. I read this one many years ago in preparation for developing the European half of "Soldier Kings," (Crucible of War was my main source material for the global part), and the bios of the rulers and generals plus the extensive battlefield maps and descriptions were very helpful. Also of great value was the narrative of events beyond the generals' control that steered the course of the war; those went into the ...more
Celia Yost
Sep 12, 2010 Celia Yost rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The author wins my eternal respect for managing to explain the Silesian wars, the Seven Years war, and make them not just understandable, but interesting to read about. This may sound like faint praise, but given my relatively low prior interest in military history it really isn't, trust me.
Sep 28, 2016 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book, although I didn't give it five stars due to the fact there was so much detail about the battles and the army, whereas I would have liked more information on Frederick's personal life (although there was a lot included about it, just nothing about if he had a "love of his life" or a close companion). One thing that was interesting was the fact the author had traveled to several locations that he wrote about and included notes about the present day locations in his foot notes. I ...more
Baihua Xie
Oct 05, 2016 Baihua Xie rated it liked it
My review of this book is mixed, I'll put it in the following way:

Firstly, this book is Yuuuge! ~650 pages, took me at least ~50 hours to finish (I'm not a native English speaker). Be sure you DO want to know a lot about King Frederick II to spend a lot of time in it.

Secondly, it's not very comprehensive. This book heavily leans on military aspects, partly (I guess) due to the author's own background. Nearly ALL of the battles in the three Silesian wars are covered in great details, to the exten
Oct 13, 2014 Joseph rated it did not like it
This is more a book of gossip and sensationalism about Freidrich II of Prussia than a serious biography. Also, the author is woefully ignorant of 18th century culture and language habits. While Freidrich II may well have been bisexual or homosexual, the means the author uses to 'prove' this are laughable. Aristocrats of this era almost universally wrote to their friends of either gender in extremely affectionate terms which, while they look sexual to a prudish 20th century American, didn't seem ...more
Jan 11, 2015 Alexandre rated it really liked it
A very fascinating figure, though it's always interesting to read the ins and outs of someone called "the Great." His military successes were good, but not exactly astounding. He was more paranoid, arrogant, and capricious, but it's rare to see an 18th century monarch who isn't. Compared to the crop of rulers of the day, Frederick certainly is at the top. Had he ruled lands such as France, with its wealth and resources, he would have likely shaken Europe to its core. As it stands, he took a ...more
Nov 10, 2011 Andrew is currently reading it
Who knows what came over me to make me want to read about some very dead white guy? I just learned that what we call the French and Indian War was the same as the Seven Years War in Europe (and a few other names in other parts of the world). Hearing that there was some sort of philosopher king in charge (or flautist-general) piqued my interest. This seemed the most readable of the books at the Duluth library; into the second chapter and I'm still reading it.
Jan 08, 2012 Anna rated it really liked it
This book certainly falls into the same category as War of the Two Emperors for me: gorgeous dustcover, delightful prose, falls a bit flat when it comes to actual history -- Asprey uses quite a bit of court gossip from Frederick's sister. However, I do give it a higher rating that Emps by the fact that it really stirred my mind and raised questions. As an immature scholar, it gave me some food for thought, which is an important part of the process.
Scott Vizcarra
Feb 25, 2010 Scott Vizcarra rated it liked it
This was a review of the man not so much on the battlefields but overall. It went into great detail about his victories and defeats on the battlefields, in the political areans of the foreign courts and with the men and women he interacted with on a regular basis. This book is more for a fan of Frederick and not for the casual interested reader.
Feb 09, 2016 Hyrum rated it liked it
Very informative and interesting. I was surprised to find that I found the peaceful time of Frederick's life much more interesting than the moments of war (of which there were many). Lots of insightful details and amusing antidotes. Over all if you are interested in the topic I would recommend the book and if you are interested in a man who tried to be a good king I would recommend the topic.
Aug 22, 2016 Richard rated it liked it
Solid account of the legendary ruler. While I wanted to know more about the battles, that would have made the this into a multi-volume work, so I'll have to search elsewhere.

A good place to start for studying the life of Frederick.
Oct 13, 2012 Bryan rated it really liked it
Shelves: history

Good information about a period I didn't know much about. Not a page turner, but not boring either. A good book to read if you have a strong interest in the material (I read it for a class).
Jeffrey Keeten
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Robert Brown Asprey was born in Sioux City, Iowa (1923 – January 26, 2009) and was an American military historian and author, noted for his books on military history published between 1959 and 2001.

Asprey received a bachelor's degree from the University of Iowa in 1949, after serving in World War II. He also studied at New College, Oxford, at the University of Vienna, and at the University of Nice
More about Robert B. Asprey...

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