- Hardcover: 186 pages
- Publisher: Weidenfeld And Nicolson Limited; 1st UK ed edition (July 31, 1980)
- ISBN-10: 0297778102
- ISBN-13: 978-0297778103
- Package Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,298,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Rise and Fall of Prussia Hardcover – Unabridged, July 31, 1980
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Text: English, German (translation)
About the Author
Sebastian Haffner was born in 1907 in Berlin. He emigrated to England in 1938 and wrote for the OBSERVER for many years. He returned to Germany in 1954, where he became a prominent journalist and historian, writing for DIE WELT and STERN. He died in 1999. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This book is straight talking and while not journalistic is certainly to the point. He covers 600 years of history in 192 pages. It is history by a non historian and I think the slow build up of evidence with proper footnotes might have served his cause better. The structure is also a bit wobbly here and there.
I was tempted to call his approach impressionistic or a word picture but I think that it is more like the difference between writing about history and writing about politics. He zeros in on the points he wants to make about Prussia and he makes them very well. He is critical of the teleological view of Prussian history. Prussia was not the father of Hitlers Germany. Prussia was the accidental father of modern Germany like Savoy was the accidental father of modern Italy.
While Prussia at various times was aggressive and opportunistic towards its neighbours it was also at various times a keeper of the peace. Haffner makes the point that Prussia was not terribly different to other European states during the 17th and 18th century in its mixture of diplomacy and war as an instrument of state policy.
Prussia had a strange birth as the unloved successor state to the Teutonic warrior kingdom. It's early history was a bloody mix of crusade and colonization. The pagan Prussians as an indigenous race could have been wiped out, no one is sure, but they were so drastically reduced that it matters little. They for all intents and purposes disappeared as a society and culture. There was so much unrelentless bloodshed in trying to convert the pagans that the land was depopulated and so colonizers were called for and they came from all over Europe. This process continued after the Hohenzollern took over. Germans, French, Dutch, Catholic, Protestant all came to take up the empty lands. German may have been the lingua franca of this state but it was no means a German State. Most of it was not even in the Holy Roman Empire. It was a mess of a entity spread out from what is now the east and north of Poland to the Rhine to the south of Germany in a hotch potch.
Prusssia went through various incarnations. Once as the most Enlightened state in Europe but it was as a rational state that asked its citizens to pay taxes and fight in its army but after that that state left its citizens alone.
'The eighteenth-century Prussian state was denominationally indifferent, nationally indifferent and socially indifferent.' ..."An extreme illustration is the true story of the cavalryman who had committed sodomy with his horse. Sodomy in eighteenth-century Europe was regarded as more or less the most hideous crime there was -- punished everywhere by death in the most painful manner. Frederick the Great's judgement was: `Have the swine transferred to the infantry.' "
The next incarnation was as one of the reactionary states that included Russia, and Austria-Hungary. This was an alliance to squash any Liberal tendencies in each others countries or indeed other countries.
In the end though the nation state that Prussia ended up Creating namely the German Empire ended up subsuming Prussia and indeed destroying its constitutionally special place in the Reich by Hitlers regime.
Haffner does a good summary job of detailing the rise and fall of Prussia. This is my third book by this author, and I always find enlightening reading. His perspective is obviously German and Prussian, but it is stimulating reading.