Bismarck Cover


A Life

By Jonathan Steinberg

Oxford University Press, USA, Hardcover, 9780199782529, 592pp.

Publication Date: April 6, 2011

This riveting, New York Times bestselling biography illuminates the life of Otto von Bismarck, the statesman who unified Germany but who also embodied everything brutal and ruthless about Prussian culture.
Jonathan Steinberg draws heavily on contemporary writings, allowing Bismarck's friends and foes to tell the story. What rises from these pages is a complex giant of a man: a hypochondriac with the constitution of an ox, a brutal tyrant who could easily shed tears, a convert to an extreme form of evangelical Protestantism who secularized schools and introduced civil divorce. Bismarck may have been in sheer ability the most intelligent man to direct a great state in modern times. His brilliance and insight dazzled his contemporaries. But all agreed there was also something demonic, diabolical, overwhelming, beyond human attributes, in Bismarck's personality. He was a kind of malign genius who, behind the various postures, concealed an ice-cold contempt for his fellow human beings and a drive to control and rule them. As one contemporary noted: "the Bismarck regime was a constant orgy of scorn and abuse of mankind, collectively and individually."
In this comprehensive and expansive biography--a brilliant study in power--Jonathan Steinberg brings Bismarck to life, revealing the stark contrast between the "Iron Chancellor's" unmatched political skills and his profoundly flawed human character.

About the Author
Jonathan Steinberg is Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Modern European History and former Chair of the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania, and an Emeritus Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He gave the biennial Leslie Stephen Lecture on 25 November 1999 at Senate House, University of Cambridge, with the title 'Leslie Stephen and Derivative Immortality'. He was the principal author of The Deutsche Bank and its Gold Transactions during the Second World War (1999). He is also the author of Yesterday's Deterrent: Tirpitz and the Birth of the German Battle Fleet (1965), All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust, 1941 43 (1990) and Bismarck: A Life (2011), which was shortlisted for both the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction (2011) and the Duff Cooper Prize (2012).