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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  3,681 ratings  ·  280 reviews
Iron Kingdom traces Prussia's involvement in the continent's foundational religious and political conflagrations: from the devastations of the Thirty Years War through centuries of political machinations to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, from the enlightenment of Frederick the Great to the destructive conquests of Napoleon, and from the "iron and blood" policies ...more
Hardcover, 776 pages
Published September 29th 2006 by Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (first published August 3rd 2006)
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Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the review blurbs on the back cover of Iron Kingdom reminds the reader that Prussia remains Europe's only extinct power, which I found startling upon further reflection; it is a fate similarly dealt out to Piedmont after its political leaders and monarchical house led the drive to reunify Italy, though, of course, that Alpine kingdom never came close to the level of being a major European player. However, one can at least still find the Piedmont name upon modern maps as a constituted Regi ...more
E. G.
List of Illustrations
List of Maps
A History of Brandenburg-Prussia in Six Maps

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

Not history as the history of great men, not history as military history, not history from below but a magnificent, monumental, magisterial blend of all of those. A thoroughly modern history that takes into account areas such as education, attitudes to women and their role in society, collective memory, the symbolic portrayal of power through statuary and rituals, and constantly, throughout, the way that the idea of Prussiandom was shoehorned into service either as perfect role model or as bane ...more
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Prussia bearing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under Prussia - they burn a building down
Hack a family in two
Lay people on sheets
It's the terror of knowing
What this nation is about
Watching some good junkers
Screaming let me in
Pray today - you rise higher
Prussia is people - people in armies
She been around
Kicked my brains round the floor
These are the days it rains but it never pours
People in armies
People on sheets
It's the terror of knowing
What this country is about
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I can't say I was filled with excitement at the prospect of reading a thousand page history of Prussia. The state was famed for its bureaucrats rather than its brilliant or bloodthirsty leaders. I approached the book more out of a sense of duty than anything else, a slight feeling of shame for having lived in Germany for over five years and yet not having much more of an understanding of its history beyond World War 2.

But Clarke is a brilliant writer, fully able to express his fascination for th
Tristram Shandy
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Prussia – Land of Myths

Prussia, the name alone already evokes a bunch of diverse, often contradictory associations. It makes you think of Frederick II, the philosopher-king, who is renowned for saying that everyone should seek heaven in his own fashion, of reformers like Stein and Hardenberg, who drew the necessary conclusions from shattering military defeats and created a more modern and efficient state, but also of the ludicrously pompous William II, of sabre-rattling, monocle-wearing, heel-cl
Nov 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, europe
Very interesting. For those that may not as have been as knowledgeable of Prussian history, this would be as good a place to start as any. I would say that that incudes me. I was not particularly aware of German history prior to WW2 until recent times and after reading a few books on subjects such as the reformation and the 30 Year War there is some very interesting reading to be had. This history of Prussia adds to that.

The rise of a nation called Prussia, from a backwater called Brandenburg t
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A very enjoyable and comprehensive history of the rise of Prussia and the Hohenzollern dynasty. A strong point is the final chapters on the afterlife of Prussia and its image in Weimar Germany and post-WWII politics of the major powers.

There is not a lot of coverage of WWI, which is fine with me as during the centenary I’ve read some elsewhere (although I may have missed some if my phone Overdrive player turned back on after I dropped it in my purse; it’s a very long book and you might not notic
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark, is a magisterial history of the Kingdom of Prussia from its earliest beginnings as a union between Brandenburg and the former Polish Duchy of Prussia, to its dissolution as a political concept following Germany's defeat in WWII. Prussia as a state had a complex and fractious history of dizzying success and absolute failure. It played host to rampaging foreign armies during the Thirty Years War, losing a huge percenta ...more
Joseph Hirsch
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
We hear the word "Prussian" today and think of a disciplined individual, someone with ramrod straight posture, a man abstemious with pleasure except for perhaps slapping his horse with a riding crop. Sort of like Corporal Himmelstoss from "All Quiet on the Western Front" on a bad day. Slightly deeper historical inquiries go so far as to say that Prussia was a military with a state as its rearguard, or a cult of the martial that led directly and inevitably to the rise of Adolf Hitler (which is a ...more
Czarny Pies
Oct 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Czarny by: Wolfson Prize Selection Committee
Shelves: european-history
As the Wolfson Prize is a very reliable barometer, it came as no surprise to me that the Iron Kingdom was an extremely good book. I enjoyed reading it greatly and came away feeling that I had acquired a much better understanding of Germany history because of it.

North Americans have a great deal of trouble understanding European history because the European nations are amalgams of older nations and multiple ethnic groups. North American history was a roll-out that began on the Atlantic Ocean. The
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The history of Prussia has been written, and re-written many times, but this one probably nailed it. As an Australian, now working at Cambridge University, the author Christopher Clark has "no obligation (or temptation) either to lament or celebrate the Prussian record". Instead Clark "aims to understand all the forces that made, and unmade Prussia."

The caricature of Prussia is more popular unfortunately, than the real thing according to Clark. As one contemporary put it, Prussia was not a state
Anisa Widyasari
"To equate Hitler with Frederick the Great, and Nazi Germany with Prussia, is a ludicrous perversion of history. The idea that one of Europe’s most enlightened and gifted Monarchs prefigured one of the most repellent dictators in modern history is simply absurd."

Those words of Prof. Clark on BBC 4's documentary "Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia" was the trigger that led mo to this book. I was instantly captivated by the way Prof. Clark delivering his history lesson on said documenta
Sep 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
The name of Prussia has come to stand for many things, very few of them good. Stiff automans stomping in perfect formation through various military parades. In particular the values and mores ascribed to Prussia were seen as being the germ that led or at least enabled The Nazi horrors. The British military command in common with the other Allies were adamant in banning the very name, with the following quote being symptomatic,"Prussia has been a menace to European society for the past 200 years. ...more
An extensive book about the rise of Prussia, maily focussing on cultural and religious aspects

This book turned out to be a little bit different than I first expected. The book mainly focusses on the period of the Frederickian Kings and is mainly focussed on cultural and religious aspects of Prussian society. The wars that shaped the Prussian state are mentioned, but not in detail.

The main problem that I had with this book was that it was to academic; therefore lacking in an overall readability t
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Prussia’s emergence as a European superpower over the 17th-19th centuries reminded me of Amazon, Facebook or Google. These corporate giants are dominating their industries even though they were nonexistent just a few decades ago. Prussia also set off as a small ‘startup’ when a wealthy Hohenzollern merchant purchased the Brandenburg territory in 1417. Brandenburg was a backward and irrelevant region within the utterly fragmented ‘Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation’. By gradually expanding fr ...more
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, kindle
Prussia weighed heavily on the collective mind of Europe during the 19th and 20th Centuries. My history classes generally blamed the formation of Germany for throwing off the structure of international power in Europe and causing two World Wars. And at the end of WWII, the Western Allies also felt that 'Prussia' was behind Germany's warlike ways and redrew the map of Germany to get rid of the name. Nearly sixty years later, 'Prussia' still brings up stereotypes that lie at the root of current Ge ...more
Feb 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Just how tenable is a modern state--a Great Power, in fact--if it refuses to conform to modern nationhood? Per Christopher Clark, the answer would would be "surprisingly so," though with roughly a trillion caveats. In a quick-reading narrative style that belies the mind-boggling mastery of a huge sweep of historical epochs and characters, Clark charts the uneasy path that early progenitors of the Prussian dynastic line took through the political and cultural battles of modernizing, maturing Euro ...more
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Finnaly! A history book that does not see all of Prussian history throught the lens of Nazi Germany. Clark (the author) gives the most objective and thorough look at one of the most influential, and ignored, states in history. The book is not written as an apology or excuse of the World Wars, which little time is spent, but gives a complete contextual look at Prussian history covering the culture, politics, and forgein policy of this controversial state. Anyone interested in German history shoul ...more
Zouina Sid Ahmed
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Two words: incredibly informative.
would recommend to anyone who wants to get into the Prussian Empire and it's history.
It’s always a somewhat odd experience to read a challenge to the conventional view as your introduction to a subject. Yet what can you do when the traditional view is articulated only in scattered studies of niche aspects and (maybe) an old and dusty volume of questionable value?

Truthfully, I came into this feeling that I didn’t have much of a preconception of Prussia because it wasn’t really an area I know much about. Aside from the world wars I’ve found it hard to find any books on German hist
This was extremely thorough.
I honestly think I'll read this again once I get a better grasp on this period and place in history.
This is less about the individuals who held the throne and more about how the culture and country was formed.
Very interesting.
Ian Casey
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a result of - not in spite of - its titanic role in European and world history, the Kingdom of Prussia was utterly dismembered after World War II. It is thus the only one of the 19th century 'Great Powers' to no longer exist in any appreciable, continuous sense.

Such a fascinating subject deserves a large scale synoptic and synthetic modern history focused on Prussia as distinct from Germany, and Cambridge-based Australian historian Christopher Clark has been the one to do it.

Clark's clarity o
Nemanja Sh
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was impressed by the book up until the moment I started reading the last chapter titled 'Endings.'

In it the author is no longer impartial, neutral but assumes an obvious anti-Prussian stance. This was especially evident in parts where criticism of the Left is ignored or merely mentioned in a short paragraph while entire pages were devoted to criticize conservatives who opposed the total dismantlement of their homeland. I also found some part preposterous like when Rosa Luxembourg and her army
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent history of Prussia dispelling the many myths about the "how Germany would have been different, were to be united by another of its states"
Jul 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Prussia, contrary to what all of my friends think when I tell them about this book, is not me mispronouncing Russia. It was actually a real....thing? Okay, it's hard to say what exactly Prussia was. First, confusingly enough, it was the Duchy of Brandenburg (always remember to pass your duchy on the left hand side kids), ruled by the Duke of Brandenburg who was an Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, which actually had nothing to do with holiness or Romans. The role of an Elector was to vote for wh ...more
One of the few comprehensive accounts of Prussian history in English, written in exquisite quality. This book is by all means one of the best books to pickup for anyone interested in learning more about Prussian history, and is an essential read on the time period. The book gives a detailed overview of Prussian history all the way from its roots as Brandenburg, all the way up to the states dissolution by the Allied powers in 1947. Clark is notably kind to Prussia in his writings, providing a fre ...more
Barnaby Thieme
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, germany
This outstanding book lives up to its reputation. It's easily the best and most engaging work of German history I've read to date, and one of the most solid works of history I've read as a whole. Clark exemplifies my ideal of historiography, telling a spellbinding story of great and terrible people without reducing history to a drama of princes and kings. And he succeeds in making the complicated story of one of the great centers of German civilization comprehensible. Highly recommended.
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-history
Great overview, however brief it might be. Tends to be a little about Prussians, and not enough about Prussia at points, but has an amazing section on the 19th century, and a good precursor to WW1. Very well written.
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Big and comprehensive history of Prussia, the German kingdom that brought us Frederick the Great, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Engels, Bismarck, etc. It took me a while to get through it, mainly because of the amount of information that it contained. I learned a lot about the modern history of that part of Europe, filling in some major gaps in my education.

Prussia was a kingdom that grew up surrounded by the great powers of Europe--France, Austria-Hungary, Russia--without ever being a full member of that
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Christopher Munro "Chris" Clark is an Australian historian working in England.
He was educated at Sydney Grammar School between 1972 and 1978, the University of Sydney where he studied History, and between 1985 and 1987 the Freie Universität Berlin.

He received his PhD at the University of Cambridge, having been a member of Pembroke College, Cambridge from 1987 to 1991. He is Professor in Modern Eur

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