The Politics of the Prussian Army: 1640-1945

10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195002577
ISBN-10: 0195002571
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Editorial Reviews


"Professor Craig has now given us a definitive work which covers the whole field in impressive detail and with an awe-inspiring apparatus of scholarship."--Michael Howard, The New Statesman and Nation

"A powerful study...manifestly the fruit of years of research and reflection, achievement in which American scholarship can take legitimate pride. Moreover, it is no mere chronicle of the past, but is pregnant with contemporary significance."-- Telford Taylor, The New York Times

About the Author

Gordon A. Craig is at Stanford University (Emeritus).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 31, 1964)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195002571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195002577
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1.3 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #666,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By J. E. Stoebner on May 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Gordon Craig is the doyen of America's historians of Germany. Now retired from academic life, he is highly respected at home and in Germany, and is sought after for sound and temperate reviews and commentary in the media. No other survey has superceded The Politics of the Prussian Army, although it is now over 40 years old. (However, Gerhard Ritter's important, multi-volume "Staatskunst und Kriegshandwerk" covers a lot of the same ground, with a more conservative viewpoint. There's an English translation) There are two basic reasons for this, I think. One is of course the book's very high quality. Craig became throughly familiar with all the most important source material available, and his fundamental conclusions are unquestioned: that the army was the keystone and guardian of the Prussian monarchy and its conservative social order, and always at work to hinder the progress of democracy and the achievement of popular over monarchical sovereignty. The authoritarian (N. B.: as distinct from totalitarian!) sympathies and traditions of the Prussian officer corps survived after the end of the Prussian monarchy in 1918 and carried on in the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic, and then in the Wehrmacht. Eventually the officer corps sold its soul to the "Austrian corporal" (Hindenburg's disdainful reference), Hitler, believing they could control him for their own ends, and that he was in any case the best available political option. But Hitler was nobody's fool, and his ultimate aim always remained to undermine the social authority and prestige of the regular army and in its place install himself, his party, and an absolutely fanaticized and obedient military force (the Waffen-SS).Read more ›
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bill Perez on January 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is a close look at the political role of the Prussian army in German society. It is heavily skewed towards covering the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and I wish more had been devoted to the seventeenth and eighteenth (this period occupies only the first 20% of the book). But that aside, what it *does* choose to cover, it covers well. Professor Craig teases apart the various determinants of the Prussian army's historical behavior--the Junker social origins, the political relationship with the crown, the ideological and pedagogical atavisms, the institutional and technological innovations, and, ultimately, the Prussian army's forceful veto power over the historical aspirations of the German masses. This book cannot be ignored by anyone curious about the course of German history.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By T. Graczewski VINE VOICE on January 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
Gordon Craig's history of the Prussian officer corps and its relationship with the state it served is a true classic of military history. The primary focus of the book is on the civil-military relations of the Prussian state beginning with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and tracings its evolution and influence to the Second World War when Hitler and the Nazis crushed the political influence of the officer corps. In addition, the book also addresses a number other issues in exquisite detail, including the formation of the German General Staff, the strategy developed before the First and Second World Wars, and the social conflict of the unified German states.
Craig's conclusions on the Prussian officer corps, their reforms and their performance are rather "standard" as far as historical interpretations go - but that is due in no small part to the fact that the author in many ways set the standard. The most salient theme of the book is that for all the German military got right in planning, strategy and innovation, it was never able to effectively solve the civil-military relationship issue, and it was that failure that led to the disasters of the First and Second World Wars.
In Craig's opinion, the opportunity for success was formulated but squandered early in 19th century. After the devastating defeat at Jena in 1807 at the hands of Napoleon, the once vaunted Prussian military had to assess how and why the disaster had occurred. The solution presented by the great military reformer Scharnhorst was the institutionalization of military genius in a centralized, elite general staff and the accountability of the armed services to the German people through an oath of allegiance to a republican constitution, rather than personal fealty to the monarch.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kevin F. Kiley on June 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
This excellent volume was one of my textbooks in college, and I completely underestimated its importance for years. Being deeply involved and interested in Napoleonic military history and the campaigns of the Grande Armee, I have again started to use this book as there is now a 'revisionist' (read 'excuse')school of Prussian history beginning to emerge, revolving around the disastrous, for the Prussians, Jena campaign of 1806. For this period, and indeed for the periods up to the end of World War II, this book is invaluable.
The author uses myriad German source material for his references, and the story he tells is accurate, lively, and riveting. He knows his material, and his subject, and is unflinching in calling a spade a spade when necessary. While I am only interested in those portions relating to the Napoleonic period and its immediate aftermath, students of the Prussian/German Army will find this book invaluable.
Craig's bona fides are impeccable and he writes with authority, verve, and accuracy. His analysis of the Prussian Army's beginnings in the aftermath of the Thirty Years' War set the definition and trends for what the Prussian Army would become, something apart from the people of Prussia and an army supported by a dynastic state. His demonstration of the effectiveness of the instrument under the Great Frederick, and of his policies, and those of his successors after the Seven Years' War, tell the tale of why is became nothing more than a 'parade ground facade', made up of half-foreign mercenary strength, which were two of the many reasons for its defeat and destruction by Napoleon and the Grande Armee in 1806.
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