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Frederick the Great

22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140285901
ISBN-10: 0140285903
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An oval portrait of Frederick the Great hung in Hitler's East Prussian headquarters behind the Russian front, yet the king can hardly be counted the spiritual progenitor of the dictator. An Enlightenment man, Frederick (1712-1786) wrote elegantly (in French; his German was execrable), composed music, corresponded with philosophers, introduced a humane penal code, tolerated all religions but adhered to none and led brilliant military maneuvers. Inheriting, in 1740, a small kingdom with an oversized army from a cruel father, he made Prussia into a major European power. He chose a Spartan lifestyle: his arranged marriage to an absent princess was unconsummated, his attraction to men suppressed. He wanted to be buried at night, without ceremony, at Sans Souci, his castle at Potsdam, to which he returned only once during the Seven Years War. His blunt, witty, oft-quoted maxims are relished by Fraser, British general and author of Rommel's biography and 10 novels. Fraser is second to none in his adulation of Frederick and sometimes employs admiring if dubious anecdotes, telling us, for example, that Frederick's "regiment" of "Giant Grenadiers" allegedly included guardsmen over eight feet tall. Fraser's principal sources are the king's 30,000 letters, published between 1879 and 1939. This often stirring biography would be more gripping with fewer pages. Some readers will be deterred by Fraser's thorough accounts of military activity, others by his reluctance to translate French and German. Overall, this is an admirable and comprehensive work. 16 pages of b&w photos, 18 maps. BOMC and History Book Club selections. (May)Forecast: Fraser's reputation as soldier and author should help sales. Some readers, however, may look to Theodor Schieder's recently translated authoritative biography or to Giles MacDonogh's recent biography.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This year's 300th anniversary of the founding of the Prussian state has seen the publication of a number of new books on this pivotal European country and its rulers. Fraser, a British general and the author of numerous works of history and fiction, first published this biography of the Prussian ruler in Great Britain. An enlightened ruler who was a musician, patron of the arts, and friend to Voltaire, Frederick the Great was also the architect of Prussia's military success against another great monarch, the Habsburg Maria Theresa. His lifetime of command ultimately led to the formation of Prussia's ongoing military and political strength in Europe. This engaging biography emphasizes Frederick's military strategy and political prowess but does not neglect the man, his family, and his contributions to the Enlightenment. Written in a felicitous manner that captures Frederick's many-faceted personality and the spirit of his times, this book will be the standard biography of this fascinating ruler for years to come. In its emphasis on military history and strategy, Fraser's book complements Giles McDonough's Frederick the Great (LJ 4/15/00), which devotes significantly more attention to Frederick's role as patron of the arts and linchpin of an enlightened court. Larger libraries will want both. Barbara Walden, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 702 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin UK (March 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140285903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140285901
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,582,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"It wasn't the army that protected Prussia for seven years: It was Frederick the Great." - Napoleon.
Frederick the Great is undoubtedly one of the most elusive characters of the 18th century: like Napoleon, historians and biographers will have to duke it out for a few more centuries before we can accurately assess who he was and what kind of ruler, and man, he was. Unlike Napoleon, he doesn't get a whole lot of attention (oddly enough, because hes been overshadowed by Napoleon). Who was Frederick? A philospher-prince, a diplomatic genius of the Enlightenment -- or a monster, an aggressor who tore apart continental Europe for his own ambitions on no legality other than "... he could" ? Obviously, the answer is likely neither. Since German unification under the Great Elector, Frederick has been seen, most unfairly, as the root of militarist Germany that dominated Europe in the period of 1870-1945. Most modern biographies focus heavily on rehabilitating his reputation, as this one does.
This isn't a very good biography in most regards: it is highly readable and written well, but it lacks in greater research and insight. Sir David Fraser, himself a military man, writes most uncritically about a man he clearly regards very highly. The account is bordering on obsequious. Nevertheless, we can be blessed that, because the biography is so old-fashioned, it spairs us the sensationalism of "psychological speculation," limiting the discussion of Frederick's sexuality and the other rumors of the period to a few pages.
I give this biography four stars for its outstanding military edge. With helpful maps of key battles, Fraser explains the events with the clarity that only an old military man could write with. Military administration is also handled extremely well. No small thing, the biography is well worth the read for this alone.
Not a great biography, but it has its strengths.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Aussie Reader on April 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Once again, David Fraser, author of 'Knight's Cross: A Life of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel' has produced another masterful biography. This beautifully told story of Frederick the Great is an outstanding account of a great military leader. You can certainly feel that Fraser has a love for this subject, even when Frederick has committed a terrible blunder the author tends to put the best light on the event as possible. This is one of the best biographies I have read on Frederick the Great and superior to most that have been available to date. In over 700 pages the author tells the story of Frederick, his conflict with his father, his love for the arts, his role as a military commander, as a King, a diplomat, as the creator of the great Prussian Army.
The author's accounts of the battles fought by Frederick are excellent and you can understand why Fraser has such a deep respect for this man. There are many accounts of Frederick leading his troops in the thick of the fighting. Losing horses under him, his aids and Generals being killed alongside him, bullet holes through his clothing. This is a commander who led from the front. Fraser also shows the many mistakes made by Frederick which led to some of the bloodiest and costliest battles in Europe during this period. After reading of some of these battles you wonder why his men followed him into others, but they did and that is what stands out about this man. He actually cared for his troops, his people and his country.
This is a great story and covers all aspects of Frederick. I believe that the maps could have been a bit more detailed but they were good enough to follow the narrative. In all 18 maps were supplied and they assisted the reader in following the battles and movements of Frederick and his armies.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
For the most part, this book could have been written a hundred years ago.
To give it its due, it is quite readable and provides a clear, lengthy, detailed narrative of Frederick's diplomatic activities and military campaigns. (There is some virtue to making the reader spend a few hours on the Seven Years War, rather than whipping through it in a few pages. Part of its dynamic and importance is that it was a very long war.)
I'm not sure who will really enjoy this book, though. Casual readers will find it way too long. Serious historians will be very disappointed by its narrow focus and its inattention to the massive body of scholarship on Frederick and Prussia during his reign. (The bibilography is grossly inadequate.) Even military buffs will want to know more about the organization of the various combatants and the important battles fought by Frederick's armies (including those of his allies and those he did not personally participate in).
The treatment of military and diplomatic matters lacks meaningful context. The military history is battles and campaigns; diplomatic history is Frederick's letters to his ambassadors and his fellow rulers and relatives. There really is no broader understanding of the larger context of how diplomacy and warfare related to the society within which it was located, how they affected the relationship between that society and the state that governed it. This is creaky old diplomatic history as a chess game played by monarchs.
I did a lot of 18th-century European history in college, so much
of this was a story I've heard before, and one that I like. For some newcomers, it might be overwhelming; for others it will seem relatively pointless.
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