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Gold and Iron: Bismark, Bleichroder, and the Building of the German Empire Paperback – September 12, 1979

ISBN-13: 978-0394740348 ISBN-10: 0394740343
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (September 12, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394740343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394740348
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Melvin Sico on January 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The first major work expounding on Bismarck's pecuniary relationship with the prominent Prussian banker Gerson von Bleichroder, Gold and Iron is truly a seminal study about the rise of the German nation. It splendidly explores the creation of the Prusso-Germanic empire through the lens of Bismarck, its architect, and Bleichroder, his Jewish financier.
Bleichroder became useful to Bismarck in many ways. He was embroiled in affaires d'Etat as well as Bismarck's affaires de famille. He managed the Chancellor's personal portfolio, helped finance wars against Denmark and Austria, and served as an intermediary for the massive indemnity levied against the French in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War. Bleichroder's remarkable and long-running relationship with the Rothschilds made his services doubly worthwhile to both Bismarck and Germany. However, Stern makes the poignant observation that while Bleichroder's success won him access to the corridors of power everywhere, his very success prevented him from being truly free. He became a kind of Tantalus, always seeking out recognition and confirmation of his accomplishments without really attaining what he was reaching for: a position at parity, if not becoming primus inter pares, vis-à-vis his peers and contemporaries.
Ponderous the book may be, but readers who are deeply interested in the political economy of Europe and in the crucial role played by embattled financiers in the rise of empires will be exceedingly enlightened--and entertained--by this monumental tome.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on October 23, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
That's how heavy this 600 page history of the Prussian unification of Germany is! This study is so gravely massive, so chock-full of info and insights, that I'm sorely tempted to say: "Go ahead! Read it! I double-dare you!" It's taken me several months, with some prolonged stagnations in airport lounges, to finish it, and I'm not the slowest reader in juvenile hall. It's almost as indigestible as gold and a lot less malleable than iron. It's not at all badly written or poorly organized; it's just long, stolid, detailed, insistent, and dry. The writing reminds me a good deal of the American historian David Hackett Fischer; if either author were paid by the word, Bill Gates would need to borrow pocket money from them. Honestly, I had to treat each chapter as a separate volume, and give myself a concentration break between them.

If I haven't discouraged you from considering this book yet, let me say that it's also one of the most impressive feats of historiography that I've encountered in many years. It's well worth the work, assuming you have any interest in the history of Germany, or of European Jewry, or of political power in action. The "gold" in the title stands for the plutocratic banker Gerson Bleichröder, while the "iron" represents Bismark, the Iron Chancellor whose political and military tactics led to the unification of Germany in the last third of the 19th Century. Structurally, the book is a kind of parallel biography of the two men, who were indispensable to each other for most of their careers. Bismark's life and thought have been an entire industry for historians since his first political victories, but Bleichröder's role in Bismark's successes and rare failures has been neglected to the point of erasure.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By H. Schneider on August 6, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have previously reviewed other books by Fritz Stern, an American historian of German-Jewish descent, born in a part of Germany that is now a part of Poland. He is one of the most interesting writers on German history of the 19th-20th centuries, and he has a lot to say on the history of German Jews and German anti-semitism.
His huge monography on Bismarck and his Jewish banker Bleichroeder is a masterpiece of historical jig saw puzzling, and it tells a fascinating story.

We are looking at the high times of German imperial adolescence.
Stern loves to play with the stylistic pattern of pairs: Blood and Iron (said Bismarck). Or Coal and Iron (said Keynes, later). Or Gold and Iron (says Stern, still later).
More pairs: power & money, Junker & Jew, Bismarck & banker, old nobility & new presumptions, aristocrats & nouveaux riches.

Gerson Bleichroeder was the first Prussian Jew who got ennobled without prior conversion. To his world of Prussian power, he was a convenience & an embarrassment. In the relation of the two men, Bismarck was dominant and Bleichroeder useful. There is no doubt whatsoever about the primacy of politics over economics. The banker thirsted for respectability & acceptance. He cherished secrecy, but sought recognition.
His career embodied the ambivalence of Jewish success: needed, pampered, feted, maligned. Jews performed great economic feats, they were immeasurably useful and resented.

Bleichroeder dropped out of German historiography like a stone in water, leaving mainly ephemeral ripples (until Stern went after him). Even Bismarck did not mention him in the first two volumes of his memoirs. Historians would give Bismarck plenty of shelf space (thousands of dedicated publications) and Bleichroeder none. Apotheosis & oblivion.
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