Bismarck and His Times

Bismarck and His Times

Bismarck and His Times

Bismarck and His Times


A new account of the life and policies of the first German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, this concise historical-biography reflects, for the first time in English, the historical shift in emphasis from the traditional political-economic approach to the more complex social-economic one of post- World War II scholarship.

Since the middle of the 1950s, much new material on Bismarck and nineteenth-century Germany and new interpretations of existing material have been published in Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Professor George O. Kent's brilliant synthesis, drawing on this mass of material, examines changes in emphasis in post- World War II scholarship. The book, particularly in the historiographical notes and bibliographical essay, provides the serious student with an invaluable guide to the intricacies of recent Bismarckian scholarship. For the general reader, the main text presents a picture of the man, the issues, and the age in the light of modern scholarship.

The major shift in historical emphasis described in this new account is the importance scholars give to the period 1877- 79, the years of change from free trade to protectionism, rather than to 1870- 71 the founding of the Reich. Bismarck's political machinations, particularly his willingness to explore the possibilities of a coup d'état, are more fully discussed here than in any other book.


This book presents a short account of Otto von Bismarck's life and policies against the background of nineteenth-century Germany is and based on the literature that has appeared since the Second World War. The aim of this study is to acquaint undergraduate and graduate students and the general reader with a summary of that literature.

A generation ago a similar task would have been relatively easy. Then, historians were preoccupied with political history, particularly German nationalism, and with few exceptions, they considered Bismarck one of the greatest statesmen of all time. World War II changed their outlook and their emphasis. Today, though political history still provides the basis and general framework for any Bismarck biography, it is being complemented by economic, social, constitutional, and most recently, psychological history.

As Lincoln and the Civil War dominated United States history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Bismarck dominated German political thinking and historical writing from his death in 1898 to. the outbreak of the Second World War. As another historian has noted, the changes in the historical interpretations of Bismarck reflect the heights and depths of German historical scholarship in this period. It was only after Germany's defeat in the Second World War that the personality and policies of Bismarck and the events leading toward German unification ceased to be a political issue for German historians. This change in emphasis led to the post-World War II reappraisal and rewriting of modern German history.

The historiographical Notes and Bibliographical Essay in this volume will provide the serious student of history with a guide to the intricacies of historical scholarship pertaining to Bismarck and his . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.