The book Bismarck: a life by Jonathan Steinberg is a biography of Otto Von Bismarck who was a prominent German leader. The author presents a comprehensive history of the political uproar in Europe during the nineteenth century that resulted to the rise of Bismarck as the German leader. During his reign, Germany was unified after France was overcome in the Franco-Prussian war. This article will focus on the review of the book putting more emphasis on various aspects that are significant to it.
The author has succeeded in bringing out the personality of Bismarck in the biography, which forms the central theme of the book. Steinberg portrays him as a hypochondriac, a cruel tyrant who could easily be overcome by emotions besides being a charismatic leader (Steinberg, 2011). Nevertheless, there was something overpowering and beyond human traits that was intricate in the personality of Bismarck. He was found to mask contempt for his fellow people, always compelled to control and rule over them.
After his appointment as the German leader, Otto von Bismarck managed to solve a problem that puzzled the European diplomacy for a long time. This led to reorganization of central Europe after the unification of Germany. Initially, the country comprised of thirty nine sovereign states which were collectively called the German Confederation. At the same time, central Europe was interchangeably under the influence of France and Russia (Steinberg, 2011). Therefore, unification of Germany through leadership of Bismarck was a great achievement and a milestone in shaping European political scene. The author describes it as a great diplomatic accomplishment in European politics for a period of over two centuries.
Bismarck is portrayed as a genius in his own unique way and a politician who was beyond his time. He succeeded in all these moves without any prior knowledge in government dealings. Moreover, he neither rallied behind the support of masses nor commanded any soldier to go to war. He did not also seek support from the legislative arm of the government (Steinberg, 2011).
The author demonstrates that Bismarck’s dominance of Europe and Germany was a result of his duality and a good understanding of the important aspects of international affairs. He was able to balance which circumstances called for use of power and those that were ideal for diplomatic negotiations. The author was in no doubt that the people had developed a liking for this leader. Steinberg succeeds in bringing out the feeling that people had about Bismarck and the legacy that he left after leaving office. He presented a handy biography of Bismarck and an outstanding coverage of the framework in which he worked (Steinberg, 2011).
As a matter of fact, the information presented it the book is not just a biography founded on newly revealed sources and interpretations from pre-existing information. Instead, its strength is found in the way information is processed from both German and English background of scholars. This uniqueness portrays an amazing feature of its prose. Consequently, the book has received prestigious accolades from distinguished institutions (Steinberg, 2011). Furthermore, it is the most readable biography of Bismarck due to the above mentioned attributes.
Steinberg recounts the insights in the book with style and vitality. In fact, his examination of the psychic triangle, which a trait that is evident at the center of Bismarck’s character, is portrayed more persuasively than one would otherwise project (Steinberg, 2011). It is a unique quality in presentation and a cut above the rest of the other authors.
Structurally, the book marks out the life of Bismarck in a conventional narrative manner. After a brief introductory chapter, the second chapter focuses on what it meant to be born Prussian. The author shows how the association of Bismarck with the Prussian legacy helped to only define rather than contain his ambitions (Steinberg, 2011). The third chapter highlights the subject’s formative life up to the inception of his political life (Steinberg, 2011). Chapter four explores the instrumental period of revolution made by Bismarck. With neither experience nor credentials, yet he lived to attain his ambitions (Steinberg, 2011). It was during this time that his most significant essentials in his political career turned out prominent.
The fifth chapter centers on the Bismarck’s suddenly successful diplomatic and political career. This occurred between 1851 and 1862. He also explores Bismarck’s mistakes such as his regular bullying and a massive ego. Furthermore, the faults and other negative aspects of Bismarck’s character are portrayed by the tremendously sympathetic character outlines demonstrated by the long-suffering allies and foes.
The author guides the reader through the military and political history of the battles that led to unification of Germany in the seventh and eight chapter of the book. However, he covers the inside politics of German empire with much less details. The ninth and the tenth chapters address the issues concerning people that Bismarck regarded as the enemies of his empire. Also, the tenth chapter addresses the most controversial aspect of the book: the relationship between Bismarck and the Jews in Germany (Steinberg, 2011). The author argues that Bismarck shared the intuitive hatred of Jews which was a common characteristic among the Prussians.
Indeed, the author’s comprehensive coverage of the Germany’s history under the leadership of Bismarck is commendable. He showed the greatness of this leader and his overwhelming political figure which led to fast rise in his political career. No wonder the book has received all the great attribution.