Otto von Bismarck transformed Europe more completely than anybody in the
nineteenth century--except for Napoleon. He unified--and indeed, created--
the country at the center of two world wars that would transform the world.
This riveting biography illuminates the life of the statesman who unified
Germany but who also embodied everything brutal and ruthless about Prussian
culture. Jonathan Steinberg draws heavily on contemporary writings, allowing
Bismarck's friends and foes to tell the story. What rises from these pages
is a complex giant of a man: a hypochondriac with the constitution of an ox,
a brutal tyrant who could easily shed tears, a convert to an extreme form of
evangelical Protestantism who secularized schools and introduced civil divorce.
Bismarck may have been in sheer ability the most intelligent man to direct
a great state in modern times. His brilliance and insight dazzled his
contemporaries. But all agreed there was also something demonic, diabolical,
overwhelming, beyond human attributes, in Bismarck's personality. He was
a kind of malign genius who, behind the various postures, concealed an ice-
cold contempt for his fellow human beings and a drive to control and rule
them. As one contemporary noted: "the Bismarck regime was a constant orgy of
scorn and abuse of mankind, collectively and individually."
In this comprehensive and expansive biography--a brilliant study in power--
Jonathan Steinberg brings Bismarck to life, revealing the stark contrast
between the "Iron Chancellor's" unmatched political skills and his profoundly
flawed human character.
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