Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The German Empire: A Short History by Michael Sturmer (2002)

I've read a few of these Modern Library chronicles, and I can't say I don't like them - but (I imagine because of the length) there just isn't any personality to them.  Bismarck, rightly so, gets his own chapter, but the Kaiser is pretty much relegated to the background.  Sturmer does bathe the origins of Weimar in an idealistic light; he gives you a good idea of what the Germans of the time were both trying to achieve, and what they were up against (France, et al).  I thought this was the best chapter in the book; otherwise, although not a slog, not particularly remarkable either.  I suppose these short histories are simply to give you a taste and encourage you read even more; but thats's short shrift.  Excellent history is often quite short (read: some of the Schlessinger American Presidents series). This fell short of excellent by quite a ways.

The German Empire: A Short HistoryThe German Empire: A Short History by Michael Stürmer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some kind of wunderbar this ain't. And while I didn't hate this enough to put it down in disgust, I also came away underwhelmed. The best chapter is about the founding and almost immediate foundering of the Weimar Republic, which Sturmer bathes in an idealistic and quite interesting light. Bismarck is (of course) a main character; Hitler makes his expected cameo appearance at the end. But the personality was in short shrift - the Kaiser (a fascinating figure) gets barely any mention relatively speaking. I suppose the very nature of this type of book, named right from the beginning as "short history" means that many, many things of interest and importance, both major and minor, must needs be left out. But even short histories can be fascinating little studies (see Ronald Reagan). This fell short of fascinating by several notches.

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