Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Our Fritz: Emperor Frederick III and the Political Culture of Imperial Germany

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Our Fritz: Emperor Frederick III and the Political Culture of Imperial Germany

Article excerpt

Our Fritz: Emperor Frederick III and the Political Culture of Imperial Germany By Frank Lorenz Muller Harvard University Press 366pp, Pounds 33.95 ISBN 9780674048386 Published 27 October 2011

Following recent excellent work on Otto von Bismarck and his reputation, it is helpful to be reminded that he was not the sole figure to focus authority and aspiration in Germany as it developed as a state and major power.

In an effective, well-grounded and thoughtful study, Frank Lorenz Muller, a senior lecturer at the University of St Andrews, uses the life of Frederick III (1831-88), who, for 99 days in 1888, was King of Prussia and German Emperor, in order to probe the political culture of imperial Germany, and thus to throw light on the continuing and developing role of monarchy in newly dynamic states. His work is also therefore relevant for contemporary empires, from Britain and Brazil to Japan and China.

Moreover, Frederick is important because hopes and ideas focused on him served as a critique of the policies followed under his father, William I (who reigned from 1861 to 1888), and his successor, William II (who reigned from 1888 to 1918). Consequently, his influence outlived his reign, although he is now generally forgotten. More particularly, Frederick has been seen as a liberal crown prince whose accession and longevity could have been a turning point that would have spared both Germany and the world much calamity.

Muller's perceptive study, however, depicts a more complex figure and context. The emphasis is on Frederick as a ruler within the parameters of Hohenzollern continuity. Thus his liberalism is related not so much to the British predilections of his wife (Victoria) and father-in-law (Prince Albert), a relationship that was a source of unpopularity for many, but rather to a strong tradition of constitutional German national liberalism. At the same time, as Muller demonstrates, the potent Romantic nationalism of the period also greatly influenced Frederick, as did a sense of dynastic mission and Prussian purpose. …

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