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Monday, April 2, 2012

“A History of Prussia”, by H.W. Koch


326 pages, Dorset Press, ISBN-13: 978-0880291583

Although the book is clearly written from a (very) German and (very) Protestant perspective – and the author never lets the reader forget where his sympathies and loyalties lay – H.W. Koch's A History of Prussia is a small masterpiece. From the origins of the Teutonic Knights; through the medieval Order's politics; to the Thirty Years War; the unstoppable advancement of Sweden; the Great Elector Frederick William's statesmanship; Prussia's own 18th Century expansion under the indomitable Frederick the Great; the liquidation of Poland; the trauma of Napoleonic Wars; the bitter Austro-Prussian rivalry; the wars against the Danes, Austrians, and French; and finally on to the creation of the unified German State, the modestly named A History of Prussia is an absolutely breathtaking journey documenting the meteoric rise of Prussia and, indirectly, the emergence of modern Germany.

Dense with information, the book serves as a reference book rather than a book which is merely read once and place on the shelf. It provides an excellent companion book to have on hand while reading any other book on German/Prussian History. The very denseness of the factual material may make reading the book for the first time somewhat difficult, yet the book does have a good index by which information can be retrieved at a later point in time.

After you are done you will want to learn more of the facts that led to the Great War. Why was Prussia so aggressive? Simple: if you feel you are always surrounded by hostile powers and have no choice but to push back, at times, you push too hard and believe that you will always be victorious. In the end, that feeling of claustrophobia that Prussia had led to its demise by a king that "Was more German than Prussian and half English". That was the very sad truth about Prussia, a country whose name no one evokes and when one does many different feelings come to one’s mind. Let's not remember the goose stepping, but what it gave Germany its greatest gift: unity.

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