Saturday, April 09, 2011

Manual for Malefactors

I've read three reviews so far of Jonathan Steinberg's new biography of Bismarck
See link, link and link, and don't overlook link.  All were favorable, and all succeeded in explaining a matter that eluded me when I took 19C history from (the excellent) Jim Sutton at the University of Louisville.  Namely, not just that Bismarck was important but precisely why he was important.  A complex of answers, of course, but sum it up with way: (a) though he took risks, he picked his risk with great care; (b) he could turn on a dime from left to right, so as to cement one alliance while confounding another. Add also this: he bore the seeds of his undoing.  He created a Germany so strong that it scared the daylights out of everybody around him.  Naturally they sought to gang up in defense--and inevitably, he spent the rest of his career in a frenetic display of crockery-juggling so as to outmaneuver them.  One thing I do remember from Jim Sutton: Bismarck created a system so intricate that only a Bismarck could hold it together, and once the new boy shunted him off stage, matters went to hell in a hurry.

One can only admire such clarity of analysis.  Yet I can't escape the fantasy that all over the world there are power-hungry amoralists poring over their fresh-minted and still-damp copies of this masterwork, and making their plans.  Now we know how Dr. Frankenstein felt when he heard the rumbling in the basement...

Disclaimer:  To be clear, I am entirely willing to concede that Sutton taught all this, but that my callow youthful self was just too callow and youthful to absorb it.


dilbert dogbert said...

ACK! ACK! That third link exposed me to the thought of Henry the K. Damn you Damn you to hell!!!
Just joking.

Buce said...

Ah, but the fourth link gives you a competent professional historian exposing HK's schoolboy howlers.