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Frederick the Great: The Magnificent Enigma Hardcover – October 1, 1986


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 715 pages
  • Publisher: Ticknor & Fields; 1ST edition (October 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0899193528
  • ISBN-13: 978-0899193526
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"This major biography of Frederick (1712-86) is as full an account of the Prussian ruler's exploits in war and peace as is likely to be written," asserted PW , "Asprey fashions the disparate sides of this soldier-intellectual into a lucid narrative of his leadership." Photos.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This welcome reprise of the great Prussian soldier-king provides some new insights into the tantalizing contradictions in his personality and behavior and retells the crowded events of his life in a comprehensive manner. Asprey's fresh prose and anecdotal style are appealing to the modern reader and detailed enough to satisfy the specialist. He is skilled at depicting the people who surrounded Frederick and in explaining the tortuous political and military affairs of the era. The book makes a nice companion to Christopher Duffy's Military Life of Frederick the Great ( LJ 1/86). Recommended for public and school libraries. Raymond L. Puffer, U.S. Air Force History Prog., Los Angeles
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Robert Asprey's life of Frederick The Great was a fascinating read.
Richard X. Bove Sr.
There is a near 100 page bibliography in the back, replete with sources for further reading.
Kevin C. B.
Mr. Asprey presents a very interesting account of Frederick the Great in this biography.
Robert Fishman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 16, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This is a sparkling book which reveals much about the life and times of a man about which too little is known in our age. Frederick the Great (King of Prussian 1740-1786) militarily united much of the Protestant northern Germany under one crown--the Prussian crown. He did so while supporting the enlightenment idea of toleration of religious differences, at least in theory, and with the goal of making Prussia a major power in central Europe.
Frederick anticipated Napoleon by re-introducing the strategy of the attack to military theory. He laid much of the groundwork for the diplomacy of Bismarck which a hundred years later sould see Frederick's great grand-nephew, William I (reigned 1861-1888) crowned German Emperor in 1871.
Frederick was certainly an genius in some areas of his life. However, as this book points out, he inherited a lot of the tools that he would need for success during his reign from his father, King Frederick William I (reigned 1713-1740). For instance, the army that Frederck the Great used so devastatingly in the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years War (1756-1763), had been painstakingly built by his father.
Additionally, he inherited a close diplomatic reationship with the British crown from his mother, Sophie Dorothea of Hanover. Sophia Dorothea was the daughter of George I and brother of George II of England. Assured of English neutrality Frederick could have a free hand to deal with Austria during the Seven Years War of 1756-1763.
Asprey writes in a way that is entertaining and still relates a good deal on information to the reader. Because of this, his work on Frederick the Great is a welcome addition to anyone's library.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Richard X. Bove Sr. on August 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Robert Asprey's life of Frederick The Great was a fascinating read. The author's understanding of his subject makes Frederick come to life. One can understand the forces that created the man, his strengths and weaknesses.
Asprey also provides a clear view of Europe in Frederick's times. The constant conflicts between its nations is difficult to understand from the perspective of the modern reader. In our times Europe has been at peace for more than 50 years (despite the conflagration in the Balkans) yet in Frederick's time the great nations could not stop warring with each other.
Most fascinating in this book, however, is the suspense filled descriptions of Frederick's major battles and the masterful way the king manuevered through the 7 year war. This was very exciting reading. It also provided insights as to how an inferior force can prevail against what appeared to be overwhelming odds.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kevin C. B. on March 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book may be out of print, but it certainly is not out of style. Mr. Asprey does try to maintian a degree of objectivity throughout the book, but he doesn't always succeed. Nevertheless, this book shines with in depth research of nearly every aspect of the life, politics, loves, and military considerations of Frederick the Great throughout his reign. There is a near 100 page bibliography in the back, replete with sources for further reading. The way the author wove the story of Frederick of Prussia was masterful in holding my attention as well as making me more interested in period politics of the era. What a fascinating era in European development. What a fascinating human being Frederick the Great was. A true humanist philospher king forced to embark upon a war of expansion to ensure his country would be able to dictate it's own course in the near future of Europe (through Germany as he envisioned it) and beyond. A truly cruel and engimatic circumstance to be trapped in as an enlightened human being during the mid 18th century. I cannot say enough good things about this book. I emphatically recommend it to anyone interested in this period of European history. Good coverage of historically significant battles with terrain maps and battle line progression provided as well.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Solipso on August 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Robert B. Asprey's writing style is contemporary and easy to read, a little better than that of David Fraser, the other author of a recent biography of Frederick the Great. Both books have about 700 pages, with maps, footnotes, bibliography, and index. Fraser has a genealogy tree, but Asprey's maps are better, especially his battle maps. Fraser's photos are glossy plates; Asprey's are printed. I preferred Asprey's book over Fraser's because of Asprey's writing style and because Fraser leaves many of Frederick's quotes in untranslated French.

Is Frederick's biography worth reading? Yes. He is important in the development of military science and the creation of Germany. He also demonstrated that skill can prove superior to numbers and that the smaller country doesn't always lose. Whether his occupation of Silesia was worth twenty years of desolating war is uncertain. The story, however, of Frederick's twelve victories and only two losses while leading little Prussia in battles against giant Russia, France, and Austria (including the Holy Roman Empire) is suspenseful and worth the journey. There came a time when the giants were about to stomp the little guy into oblivion, but something like a deus ex machina happened and Prussia survived.

Besides war, Asprey includes much other information: childhood, friends, politics, and health. When Frederick tries to run away, a friend who tries to help is beheaded. Frederick's father forces Frederick to watch. Later Frederick is forced to marry an unattractive woman. As an enlightened king, he reads, writes, plays and composes music, and philosophizes with Voltaire.

I subtract a star from Asprey for two reasons. The reason of lesser importance concerns the book's index, which lists all names, but still has a shortcoming.
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