Most people accurately associate Prussia with duty, discipline, and fervent militarism. They may be hard-pressed, however, to define it geographically or summarize its rise and fall. With The Vanished Kingdom: Travels Through the History of Prussia, James Charles Roy attempts to fill in the gaps of our knowledge about the former German state, from its 12th-century origins to 1945. Founded by Christian knights of the Teutonic Order, Prussia and its hereditary rulers, the Hohenzollerns, reached their political zenith in 1871, when they effectively ruled the Second German Empire. After World War I and the abdication of Wilhelm II (the last ruling Hohenzollern), Prussia ceased to exist as a political entity and its territory was incorporated into a greater Germany.
Combining historical documentation with travel narrative and personal interview, Roy's prose is frequently heavy on narration and light on history. The Vanished Kingdom succeeds, however, in succinctly chronicling significant events in Prussian history, such as Bismarck's rise to power and Germany's World War I victory at Tannenberg. Maps, historical and contemporary photographs, and an extensive bibliography supplement Roy's study. An introduction by Amos Elon brings the history of Prussia up to the present day with its examination of East Prussia's former capital, Königsberg, which was incorporated into Russian territory in 1945. The fate of the city, today physically and economically devastated, remains precarious; will it return to Germany or remain a Russian territory? Together, Roy and Elon provide a comprehensive overview of Prussia's past, present, and future. --Bertina Loeffler Sedlack
From Library Journal
Roy traveled through what used to be the ancient kingdom of Prussia, the cradle of modern Germany, contrasting what he saw and heard from current Polish citizens with the memories of former German residents. The forced relocation of millions of Germans who had lived there for more than 700 years certainly added to the misery of 1945. What makes this book interesting is that few readers know much of the "Great Trek" during the winter of 1944-45 that turned Danzig into Gdansk and K?nigsberg into Kaliningrad. Many readers have heard of the alleged connection of Prussian militarism to Hitler's rise, but for those who lack an understanding of Prussia's cultural history, such allegations are meaningless. Roy, whose previous books have all dealt with Ireland, presents a solid popular history of Prussia but adds nothing new in the final chapters on the war. The book relies too heavily on secondary sources to be of use to academics, though it has a good bibliography for those unfamiliar with Prussia. Recommended for undergraduate collections and public libraries.ARandall L. Schroeder, Wartburg Coll. Lib., Waverly, IA
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