Hamerow begins his introduction with a defense of the theory that history is determined by the great people of society or The Great Man Theory of history. He goes on to say that They are the makers of the world in which we live. Otto Von Bismarck belongs in this Company.
The controversies surrounding his life still go on between historians today. He is portrayed as a destroyer of liberty and also as a compromiser of liberalism. Some see Bismarck as trying to preserve the old order of Europe. Bismarck worked against liberal plans for unification of Germany but stood proudly in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles as the German Empire he helped to create was proclaimed. Bismarck as man and as statesman has been a point of interests for many history scholars interpretations. Bismarcks empire lasted only 20 years after him. Bismarck believed that armed force was necessary in relations among governments Blood and Iron his methods. Through three successful wars Bismarck united Germany. With the creation of the 2nd German Reich Germany become the strongest nation on the continent. After the union of the German states Bismarck became an outspoken activist for peace on the continent. Bismarck never succumbed to the temptation of conquest. Bismarck led the German people to empire but is criticized by not training the nation in self-governing. Bismarck never talked about racial supremacy or unlimited conquest. He believed in a balance of power resting upon the existence of strong nation states.
Hamerows introduction gives a very good foundation of German history and review of his and others thoughts on Bismarck. He sets up very well a good basis for what the rest of the book will be about. He puts out several different areas of consideration on Bismarck that will later be discussed in the book and keeps it interesting.
A Country Squire
At a young age Bismarck was more interested in his estates and farming than in politics. Even in his later years he kept watch over his estate in Vorzin. It was during these years that he learned to know the land and its people well. This knowledge was to aid him later in his political career. Much of his earlier life was spent on his lands and it is from here that he learned to love Germany. He believed later in life that it was country life that made people more practical and city life took away from life. He never forgot his love for the country and it shaped his views accordingly.
A Country Squire Evaluation
Marks gives a good history study of Bismarcks young life. An interesting look on this powerful mans early upbringing in a more rural setting than always thinking of him as the powerful politician.
Formative Intellectual Experiences
Bismarcks youth was one that he led on his own not wanting to be led or ordered by anyone but himself. It was not until his conversion to Christianity and his marriage that he started to become a force in Germany, although he did not care for the Christian dogmas. Bismarck believed strongly that God had set up government and it was not to be changed as the liberals had wanted. Bismarck viewed war as to honor the state not as just for prestige. He never believed that Parliament should have too much power as he believed that the power should rest in the monarchy or top elite. Bismarck was opposed to parliamentary government but he accepted and worked with it. To Bismarck the strong state required a strong leader and he saw in himself that leader.
Formative Intellectual Experiences Evaluation
Holburn speaks more of the Christian religion and aspect of it in Bismarck. He brought out questions on Bismarck that it was his Christian views having to do with some of his political policies. Holburn seemed to be on the side of Bismarck and supports him.
The Road to Damascus
From the beginning of Bismarcks political career other saw in him the power that he possessed in speaking and swaying others to his beliefs and wants. Bismarck was very good at holding to opinions on mind so that he could change his policy if it was necessary. For a time he seemed to have a hate for Austria that ran into all details of everyday life. It was during his student days that he received a better understanding of foreign affairs that later helped him in his views on central Europe. He seemed more interested in the challenge of politics than in it actual procedures. Bismarck was always ready for a challenge and when he took it he went at it full force.
The Road to Damascus Evaluation
Gall gives a good historical interpretation for his views on why Bismarck was the way he was especially with his views against Austria. A very interesting work on his life, Gall seems to be more in the middle with Bismarck as he does not really support or berate him.
A Freudian Approach
A. J. P. Taylor
Bismarck is seen to have much admiration of his father and is resentful at his mother for not sharing he same respect for him that he has. He also is critical of her for not showing much love to her children. His early life began with his mother having him in the best of schools as well as being with the Hohenzolleran children, which did help his later political career. Bismarck entered the Prussian civil service but stayed only for a very short time, as he could not put up with superiors telling him what to do. His marriage brought to him a lasting and secure happiness. A very emotional man he wept after his first speech and even to the music of his time and also when he was given the Prime Minister position.
A Freudian Approach Evaluation
Taylor gives a good look at Bismarck the man and his life with his parents and wife. A different outlook on history then I am used to reading. It is interesting to see more of his private life than the usual Iron Chancellor look.
The Great Compromise
Heinrich Von Sybel
After the defeat of Austria, parliament at first worried at how much farther the king would take his power but was relieved when he did not take there away. With Austria in defeat the fight in parliament over the unconstitutional use of power by the king and Bismarck was dying out and parliament swung more in favor of Bismarck and his policy now that the could see it was working. Parliament agreed to ratify what Bismarck and William I had done and make it legal. William I told parliament that it would not happen again. But parliament had lost some of its power by agreeing to this and the sway of the liberals broke. The various factions in parliament were breaking apart and now longer was there such strong defense against Bismarck in parliament.
The Great Compromise Evaluation
Sybel gives a good account of Parliament point of view on the German unification issue and how their views easily changed when victory was seen. His writing had much more to do with parliament than with Bismarck. He puts forth the opinion that if parliament had stood up to Bismarck they might have succeeded in their aims.
Originally the liberals in parliament were opposed to the arbitrary use of power the government used over their heads. However with the quick victory over Austria few in parliament disagreed with Bismarck and fell into the nationalistic views of a German unification under Prussia. Many in parliament became supporters of Bismarck and his policies. One by one Bismarck was able to sway liberal groups to his side. First the indemnity bill was passed and the constitutional conflict was over, but it also ended the unity of the liberal movement. Bismarck was successful in pulling most of parliament to his support.
Liberalism Surrenders Evaluation
Pflanze gives a good outlook on the different groups in the Prussian parliament. Very easy to understand he seems more in support of Bismarck than against him.
The Subverter of Freedom
Bismarcks appointment to Prime Minister at first was unfavorable among the liberals in parliament. Bismarck set up a cabinet with reactionary men. These men helped him against the opposition in parliament and were men he knew would not get in his way when he wanted to get his policies through. His first speech was the Blood and Iron speech to parliament. Parliament was very against the use of taxes and the government ruling without a budget. Bismarck was able to win that fight by the defeat of Austria. When Bismarck had the press suppressed parliament and the crown prince both objected.William I was not happy with his son over this issue. Afterwards Bismarck began to isolate the young prince and said that the prince had no official status and was therefor not entitled to have a political role. Bismarck pushed hard and parliament gave way.
The Subverter of Freedom Evaluation
Eyck clearly does not approve or like Bismarck or his role in German government. He blames him for suppressing liberal thought in central Europe. He gives a good counter-position argument to the supporters of Bismark.
A Doomed Titan
Henry A. Kissinger
Bismarck came to power at the time when parliament was arguing over the budget. Out of the disunity of the German states Bismarck created a society based on his image and a community of nations centered on his ideals in their business with one another. However he did this on his own and he left a country incapable of holding what he had put into motion. Bismarck saw in his politics a doctrine of self-limitation, which his predecessors did not see. After his wars for unification Bismarck worked for twenty years on peace in Europe. However his buildup of the unification by war later came to haunt Germany as the ideals of German strength and prestige was never forgotten. After he left office lesser men tried to work the system he had left behind but were not capable of holding it together. The result helped lead to the later wars of the 20th century. After Bismark the people forgot his hard work for peace and the lessons he had learned and remembered only the great triumph of the 3 quick wars for unification.
A Doomed Titan Evaluation
Kissinger gives a good support of Bismarck in his writings and shows how it was those who followed him lost control of the situation he had set up. He puts the blame for the resulting World Wars more on those in leadership after Bismarck than on Bismarck himself.
The Austrian Tragedy
Heinrich von Srbik
The old order of central Europe was beginning to fall when Bismarck came to power. Austria was left to fall back on its own when left out of the smaller Germany unification under Prussia. The Prussian march against Austria destroyed what was left of the Holy Roman Empire and gave to the growing nationalistic views within Austria more fire. As Bismarck did not want the catholic Austria a part of his empire they were left out with an uncertain future ahead.
The Austrian Tragedy Evaluation
Srbik lays the blame for the fall of the Austrian Empire solely on the shoulders of Bismarck and his campaign against Austria. Very defensive about Austria he has Prussia as the evil agent that crushed all hope of Austria ever having dominance in central Europe. Srbik easily appears very biased in his historic opinion over how things turned out.
Blames the war of France with Prussia to have started over Frances want of the left bank of the Rhine. During the war however French diplomats are quick to dissuade the other countries by disavowing that they had any want of German soil. The French even went so far as to claim they were going to set up the Rhineland as an autonomous buffer kingdom between them and Germany. The French wanted a weak Germany of many small kingdoms along their border. They tried to pass of Prussia as the aggressor and the ones whom attacked them. France had wanted the Rhineland since Napoleon.
Gallic Ambition Evaluation
Oncken writes the French out to be the all time aggressors against Germany. He is very biased on the side of Germany and seems to leave out some history so that France is the only villain and Germany the defender. It is hard to discern the historical truth from such a strong bias.
The Eternal Boche
Ollivier is quick to blame the downfall of France in 1870 on the errors committed Napoleon III in 1866. His disloyalty to the principle of nationality that was the source of all of Napoleons III misfortunes and our own. The Theory of Nationalities allows the will of the people to say in which country of government they wish to belong with disregard to natural boundaries. The principle a nationality attempts to remove wars of conquests as without the peoples consent it is wrong for one country to annex another. In 1866 with the Prussian annexation of the duchies by a war of conquest was a blow against nationality and a resurrection of the principle of conquest. Napoleon III wanted peace but Bismarck wanted a war and it was Bismarcks will which won out. The war with France was solely Bismarcks creation and its only purpose was to the consolidation of Germany.
The Eternal Boche Evaluation
A good account by a person who had first hand knowledge of the situation. Ollivier gives us a firsthand view from the French perspective of how they looked at what Prussia had committed against them. Still as he was a Frenchman he has a bias toward his own countries perspective.
A Historic Necessity
Rothfels comes out to say the German unification was attainable only through non-peaceful means. Bismarck is seen as anti-totalitarian and non-centralistic. Bismarcks Germany did not include all Germans and even included some 10% non-Germans. Bismarck was not a Pan-German and belongs to the company of the anti-Hitlerian world. Bismarck only wanted to unite the small German confederations into one nation under Prussia and did not want to go on to further conquests.
A Historic Necessity Evaluation
Rothfels promotes Bismarck as one of he great men of his century. He has the basic viewpoint of those who support Bismarck and is firmly against the thought that Bismarck was the cause of Germanys future problems.
The main objective controlled by Bismarck was the European peace. Many of the outlying countries that had some German people were not seen as belonging to Bismarcks Germany as he did not see the majority of those people as being friendly to Germany. The main areas of unrest was the areas of Alsace-Lorraine and the Balkans. France would never forgive nor forget the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany. Bismarck kept working for alliances so as to weaken Frances chances at a war of revenge against them. Getting Britain into these alliances however proved to be very hard if not impossible at times. Bismarck tried to be friendly with France when it came to colonial territory to aid in French prestige. It was his purpose to have alliances to strengthen Germanys position in central Europe.
Pax Teutonica Evaluation
Brandenburg writes Bismarck out to be a man of peace not as an aggressive tyrant. He gives an optimistic view of Bismarcks Germany. Done very well Brandenburg stresses Bismarcks peace time to allow for a better understanding of the man.
A Trois in a World Governed by Five
R. W. Seton-Watson
The peace throughout Europe was an armed peace. Germany maneuvered into a triple alliance as to stop a French-Russian alliance do as not to have a war on two fronts. Britain moved into an alliance with Italy and France on the Mediterranean agreement to keep the status quo in the Near East. Germany also came into these agreement as well as making other secret agreements with other countries. Many of these agreements by the countries ended up undermining each other and causing Europe to be entangled in a web that eventually pulled them into global war.
A Trois in a World Governed by Five Evaluation
Watson gives a good account for the mess that Europe got itself into with all the treaty agreements going around. He seems to give favor to Bismarck and is critical of all the countries for the web of treaties that they tied themselves into.
The Continuity of German Aggressiveness
Germany did not come about as other states had by creating a state from below by the forces of democratic revolution but created their state from revolution from above by using the power and prestige of the Prussian crown. The people were never able to unite Germany through revolution and had failed when they tried. It was not until after Bismarck and his 3 quick wars that German unification was possible and it was by the powers of the German government. The main heads of the government were William I and Bismarck with parliament below them. The army was under direct control of the monarch. Bismark worked his parliament with the express intent on keeping out western European parliament ideals from establishing itself in his Reich. The foundation of the German Empire greatly enhanced the self-image the German people had about themselves. The dynastic and military elements were pushed to the forefront of the minds of the German people. The ascension to the throne of William II pushed forth the conservative dynastic forces in Germany. After Bismarcks dismissal those who wanted a larger empire were heard.
The Continuity of German Aggressiveness Evaluation
Fischer gives a good historical account of Germanys rise to power and how the seed of expansionism was planted in the minds of Germans by Bismarcks early efforts at unification. He does however put Bismarck in the positive light and puts the blame for German aggressiveness on those who followed up after Bismarck.
The Diplomacy of Checks and Balances
William L. Langer
Bismarck had believed in a strong military to guard against her neighbors because of her dangerous geographical location. Bismarck set up the Renaissance treaty in which Germany would ally with the country that was attacked by the other either Austria or Russia. This gave Germany a safe out in which side to take if either Austria or Russia went to war over the Balkans. The Mediterranean coalition made Russia back down its claim in the Black Sea and eased German difficulties with the two countries. Bismarck worked hard to free Germany from a France-Russian alliance as well as maintain a careful balance with the other powers. Bismarck tried to maintain the peace at all costs. He eagerly joined the race for military power and arms any advance that came out with France and Britain. His policies on the colonies however were rather reluctant and half-hearted. He was more a continental statesman than an international diplomatist. By the time he left office Bismarck had laid down the most complex system of alliances Europe had ever know.
The Diplomacy of Check and Balances Evaluation
Langer shows well how Europe had itself ties into webs of alliances that brought it headfirst into conflict. He supports Bismarck as Chancellor but not as an international diplomatist when it came to the colonies. He does support him as a continental politician. He points out his views very well in his writings.
A Bonapartist Dictatorship
Some critical thinkers on Bismarck during his appointment as Chancellor thought more of him as a Chancellor dictator and that everything hinges on Bismarck. Even Bismarck himself had claimed I am master of Germany in all but name. His rule has also been looked at as a Bonapartism. The way he ruled was much like that of Napoleons regime. Bismarck typical of Bonapartism managed to balance traditional and modern elements in combination. Although Bismarck at first went with the liberals on some ideals he later instituted a policy of de-liberalization in many areas of political and social life. It seems that the road from Bismarck to Hitler was in fact because Bismarck did not allow parliament to grow as it had in other countries of the time. With the dismissal of Bismarck from government and the symbol of Bonapartist rule Germany fell into hands not capable of ruling as Bismarck had not shown anyone how to run the country.
A Bonapartist Dictatorship Evaluation
Wehler is clear in his writings that he does not have a liking for Bismarck and clearly blames him for what happened to Germany after he was removed from office. All of the direct quotes he pulled were all anti-Bismarckian. He shows a strong bias against Bismarck.
The Campaign against Socialism
During 1877-1878 the Social Democratic party was gaining strength in Germany. Bismarck had pushed for a law against the party without success. Later Bismarck had pushed the banning of publication of anything Socialist. This anti-socialist law however did not pass through the Reichstag. With the 2nd attempt on the life of the Kaiser Bismarck had the opportunity he needed to go after the Social Democratic party. Bismarck forced the dissolution of the Reichstag. Bismarck demanded of the new Reichstag the destruction of the Socialists. The socialists lost many votes and seats in the parliament. The new anti-socialist law passed in 1878. This law put a wound into the German people that still had not fully healed.
The Campaign against Socialism Evaluation
Ziekursch opposed what Bismarck had done to the Socialists. It is easy to see that he is anti-Bismarckian and sees how he was the cause of modern day problems. Still he had some good points in Bismarcks war against Socialism.
The Empire as Capitalist Exploitation
The French revolution hastened German revolution of the conflict between the Junkers and the Bourgeoisie. The greatest and most noticeable change came in the 1866 revolution from above. After 1871 Germany grew into an industrial nation of the 1st rank. After German unification came economic and legal unification of Germany. The rise in wages increased during 1810-1900 but stabilized while profits went up during 1900-1914. Relative wages seemed to be the only type of wages that declined continuously. During the 1860s the number of hours per week did not decline and stayed around 14-16 hours per day. What helped in the industries was the success of certain trade unions as well as machines to help the workers. The capitalists instead of given as a gift the shorter workday exploited the workers to work harder during he shorter day. The Social insurance improves partly because of the contributions of the workers but it did not always help.
The Empire as Capitalist Exploitation Evaluation
Kuczynski is most definitely a Socialist as he denounces the capitalists in his writings. He speaks solely on the industries of the time and shows to his view how they exploited the workers. He seems to have added much of his own personal bias into his writings to show his point.
The Mythology of the Sonderweg
The German imperial constitution should not be seen as an archaic, backward politically, or inefficient. To some the 2nd Reich was very modern in its technocratic efficiency of the bureaucracy and its military machine and universal suffrage. Many of the other European states were not lacking in the authoritarian rule. The German constitution was flexible and modernizing forms had made considerable influence. The feebleness and subordination of the bourgeoisie has been misconstrued and Germanys political and social order was mush greater than shown by early historians. The view of the heroic bourgeoisie revolution where they triumphantly set up a program of liberal democracy is a myth in Europe. It was the political process of democratic reform that made the parliament rule over the old regimes. Germany had its own distinct form of bourgeoisie revolution in its revolution from above. Of the earliest reforms in Germany was the formation of the Zollverein, which brought dominance on liberal leadership to society from the bourgeoisie. After the creation of Bismarcks Reichstag the liberals were there and had helped in supplying the materials. The imperial state of 1871-1918 was compatible with the interest of the German bourgeoisie. The German bourgeoisie did not come to sudden predominance though revolution but had to work through the already existing German System.
The Mythology of the Sonderweg Evaluation
Eley gives a good argument against the old ways a thought on German history. He puts out his views in a very easy to understand way and makes it easy to think on the origins of the German Reichstag in different ways. He supports Germany and their way of government.
A Synthesis of Power and Culture
The military buildup of the 19th century is sometimes looked at with a benevolent eye; the high moral quality, sense of duty, and strict discipline. However it is often overlooked that the fact such strict discipline often led to thoughtless subservience and in a military state it easily bled into the society as well. The Prussian soul seemed hostile to the culture of the people and the aspect of the Prussian army that was dangerous was obscured by the fact of the quick successful war to unite Germany. Theodore Fontane a German historian has said of Prussianism (Borussism) what must be crushed first of all is militarism. Bismarck used this militarism which was already in place before he got there to unite Germany. Bismarck was borderline in that to some extent he had the conception of a synthesis of power and culture.
A Synthesis of Power and Culture Evaluation
Meinecke writes on about how the Prussian thought of how military might worked its way into the culture dominantly. That it eventually came to haunt Germany. He does not lay blame at Bismarck as he was using the only methods he was given and knew how to use to bring Germany together. His aim is to show that Prussian militarism through the ages was what brought them into trouble.
The Last Great Cabinet Statesman
Bismarck did not see the unification of Germany by liberals as a possibility. Only through his own ideas and policies was it possible for Germany to unite itself under Prussia. Bismarcks policy was a matter of true reason of state and was only achievable through excessive danger Blood and Iron. His phrase was not meant to be taken as a policy of war and conquest as he never supported such a policy. Bismarck never claimed might makes right as some liberal thinkers have claimed. Bismarck did play the political parties against themselves and at times destroyed the good will and the readiness for responsible collaboration in the government. The bourgeoisie moved into the economic realm and Germany and stayed mostly out of the political arena. Bismarck has to be studies from his own German standpoint to be fully understood. Germany being surrounded by other states needed to have a strong military. Bismarck had to be vigilant in his duties and political work with other countries. It can be seen that the German citizen is only free if the state is strong enough to guarantee its freedom. Bismarck conducted his wars for reason of state. He did nor see war as a crusade but as a just struggle to determine the superior power. Bismarckian statecraft was unobscured by passion, and put restraints on uses of power. For Bismarck the use of power was an opportunity to serve others not to abuse it to his own accord.
The Last Great Cabinet Statesman Evaluation
Ritter puts down a good defense of Bismarck and his policy. He shows the difference between the politics of Bismarck and the policy of unrestrained power. Very well written and thought out.
Old Means and Old Purposes
Bismarck put nationalism to his own use. Bismarck disregarded he liberal nationalistic program. Military considerations were what led him to take Alsace-Lorraine. Since modern nationalism had a spirit of separation Bismarck was able to make it his ally and bring new elements of power into the battle array. He thwarted the liberal and democratic movement and hurt these developments in Germany. The moment in time in which nationalism set itself up gave a perfect stage for Bismarck to unite Germany. Bismarck did well in politics, as there was no other statesman of his equal to oppose him. Bismarck removed Austria from German affairs and forced Prussia to make a stand on her own with the other states of Europe. This hastened the decline of the Hapsburgs in Austria. Bismarck was convinced that only Prussia could guarantee German happiness and prosperity.
Old Means and Old Purposes Evaluation
Schnabel does not support nor berate Bismarck. He sees him more s a product of his time and it is hard to see where his bias is. A good interpretation of what occurred with nationalism in central Europe.
The Divorce of Politics from Morals
G. P. Gooch
Bismarck set out boldly but with limited resolve and when his goal was reached he stopped his wars and worked for peace. Bismarck was neither an imperialist nor a Pan-German. As long as he remained in control of the power of the Reich the power was not abused. Bismarck would have been strongly opposed to the work of Germany against her neighbors that occurred after he was removed from office. Bismarck put a weakness in Germany by not training the government in how to properly govern itself. This was not solely Bismarck fault as there was not mush demand for parliamentary government by the Kaiser and the only opposition came from the small groups of Radicals and Socialist left in the Reichstag. Bismarck gave to Germany the Nation-State, the Triple Alliance, a federal constitution, colonial territory, and a prestige not known since Emperor Barbarossa. Most of which were lost under the leaders that came after Bismarck. Bismarck labored for his countrymen, first for Prussia and second for a Prussianized Reich.
The Divorce of Politics from Morals Evaluation
Gooch gives a good support for Bismarck and shows how he should not be judged by 20th century ideals. He writes good history that is easy to understand and follow.
I have found the book on a whole was very informative and brought new light and ideas to the subject of Bismarck and imperial Germany. There were some new points that I have not known before and will look more into those authors works that have been only touched upon in this work. I follow more in line to the historians who have support of Bismarck and his policies and was pleased with the results that they had come up with on him. The style in which the book has been compiled is very helpful and easy to understand. For as short as the book is it contains a vast amount of information within it more so than I at first thought it would. Very pleased with this historiography on Bismarck.
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