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The Course of German History: A Survey of the Development of German History since 1815 (Routledge Classics) (Volume 19) Paperback – May 18, 2001
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'Mr Taylor, by cutting down to a minimum the ballast of dates and names that so often encumbers historical writing, and concentrating on the fundamental trends and events, has achieved both brevity and lucidity.' - The Observer
About the Author
A.J.P. Taylor (1906-90). British political and diplomatic historian, and noted journalist. He was the author of numerous bestselling works, including Bismarck, English History 1914-1945, The Origins of the Second World War and The War Lords.
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Top customer reviews
I think Taylor anti-German stance is more than defensible, given the time this book was written, but if you want to understand him in more depth, you'll need to read his other books on the subject, especially his biography of Bismarck and his Struggle and, of course, Origins of WWII.
My favorite British historian of the prelude to WWII, though Lewis Namier's Europe In Decay and Trevor-Roper's book on Hitler's last days are necessary supplements to Taylor.
The first chapter sets the scene with a summary of German history from the time when Charlemagne founded the First Reich in the year 800 to the outbreak of the French revolution in 1789. This summary of nearly 1,000 years of German history in just twenty-four pages must stand alone as one of the greatest accomplishments in historical writing of any age. Key to this success is taking a thematic approach, the theme being that a divided Germany is a much happier state of affairs for Europe rather than a united Germany, although whether the Germans themselves would agree with this is another question. Admittedly, Taylor's lucid and evocative style may unsettle some readers, but it does stimulate the mind to ask questions, and sets the scene for the rest of the book. Of course, no one wishes to be described or labelled as a 'barbarian', even a 'barbarian of genius' (a clear reference to Frederick the Great of Prussia). But I rather suspect those who express concern at this language may not have learnt all the facts, or may not wish to, for whatever reason.
Of the following chapters, I would highly recommend the chapter on the failed German liberal revolution of 1848, which of course laid many of the seeds for the future troubles of Germany. The events of the German revolution are quite complicated, as the German Confederation at this time included such states as Austria and Bohemia, yet Taylor's lucid account and explanation of these events is excellent. Also, Taylor's analysis of Bismarck in the following chapters, and the way in which this German statesman balanced the aims of achieving 'Little Germany', whilst keeping those happy craving for 'Greater Germany', is another tremendous achievement in this book, and is highly recommended.
Also, the final chapters on the failure of the Weimar Republic and the rise of National Socialism are of particular value. Those looking for in-depth details of the blatant anti-Semitism of the Third Reich may be surprised by the lack of details of the barbarity of this episode in human history. Instead, Taylor focuses on the continuing 'balancing act' of Hitler's aim of achieving both 'Little' and 'Greater' German objectives, all focused ultimately in achieving the age-long German dream of 'Mitteleuropa'.
Again, highly recommended for all students of history, and for all those who wish to understand the complicated and tortuous history of the Germans, a peoples who have succeeded in most things down the ages, with the exception of mastering the art of politics.
Aside from this in my opinion faulty analysis, this actually is a fairly good and concise view of several hundred years of history. His grasp of the intricately complex relationships between the HRE and the various independent states is excellent - though even here his pro-Austrian/anti-German bias is a bit too obvious. Still a worthwhile read, if you keep these issues in mind.