Bismark: A Life Book Review


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Otto von Bismark  July 1890

 

In Bismark: A Life, Jonathan Steinberg suggests that the modern German state had its origins in the imagination of Prince Otto von Bismark. However, Steinberg builds his case with such apparent animus toward the subject that the value of this book is somewhat undermined.  Steinberg implicitly lays at Bismark’s door responsibility for WWI (by creating the German Empire and buttressing autocracy), WWII (by reinforcing the Junker class and doubling down on militarism), and genocide of the Jewish people (by fueling antisemitism).

Steinberg’s approach is comprehensive. He traces Bismark’s rise to power and attempts to lay bare the state-builder’s multiple motivations. In support of his analysis, Steinberg provides extended excerpts from Bismark’s correspondence and from other first-person accounts. The portrait of Bismark that emerges is more demonic than Machiavellian.

Bismark, by Steinberg’s account, was a hypochondriacal, reactionary, anti-Semite, an ingrate with an unbridled thirst for power. Despite Steinberg’s compilation of evidence, the reader is left with doubts about the integrity of this author’s presentation. His loathing for Bismark is so manifest that we feel bias must inevitably influence judgment.

However, because Steinberg’s book is well resourced, it has much to offer. I was interested, for example, to learn how Germany reacted to the revolutions of 1848. Also interesting was the tension between the papacy and secular heads of Europe. Most fascinating was Bismark’s effort to weaken a rival, France, by aligning himself with Russia. I wondered, as I read, if there was a corollary with present times–with Donald Trump’s expressed criticism of NATO and his avowed admiration for Russia.

I recommend this book, but with reservations.  For a complete view of Bismark, it would be a good idea to read a second biography.  Many questions, in my mind, remained at the book’s end.  Chief among these was, what was Bismark really like?

A. G. Moore     June 2017

 

 

 

 

The Irish Brigade: Book Review

irish brigade Gen._Robert_Nugent_and_his_staff,_Irish_Brigade,_Washington,_D.C._(vicinity)
Brigadier General Robert Nugent poses with the Irish Brigade in Washington, D.C.   1865

 

“The Irish Brigade”, by Steven J. Wright, is a slim volume that packs an emotional wallop far out of proportion to its size. In a mere sixty pages, the book offers vivid photos and moving descriptions of the Irish who fought in the United States Civil War. There is no shortage of heroism or honor on display in this book. But just as these traits are heralded, so is the tragedy of war driven home.

Most of the people featured in the book did not survive the War. This is a startling reality. Letters to family from fallen soldiers highlight the toll war took on millions from both the North and the South. Although some Irish did join the Confederate effort, overwhelmingly, these men fought with the Union army.

Though sourcing in this book is necessarily selective, because of its size, the material cited is very affecting. A wealth of first-person accounts captures the experience of war.

I found the book in a local library. It is listed for sale in most places as a collectible or rare book. The book would be of particular interest to Civil War buffs or to those who would like to learn about Irish-American history.  I highly recommend Steven J. Wright’s “The Irish Brigade”.

A. G. Moore  June, 2017

Exploration and Conquest Stories of Indigenous Peoples: With Student Study Guide


Featuring:

  1. Vocabulary Development
  2. Reading Comprehension
  3. Written Expression
  4. Core Curriculum Concepts
  5. An Integrated Workbook
  6. Pictures Highlighting Key History Figures And Events

A Book For High School Students: Exploration And Conquest Stories Of Indigenous Peoples

exploration-matebele-cover

This book takes the student around the globe and across the centuries with a pictorial odyssey.  Six continents are covered, as are island nations.   Twenty-two anecdotes are labeled “Did You Know?” Each of these has a vivid photo associated and a dramatic story.  For example:  Vietnamese villages are shown kowtowing to French invaders; indigenous Putumayo are shown chained as slave laborers on South American rubber plantations; and junks are shown burning off the coast of Canton during the Opium Wars.

A special feature is the “Useful Terms” section, which offers simple explanations for challenging words that appear in the text.  Also, in the “Student Study Guide” (incorporated into the book), there is an exercise in map reading.  There are, additionally,  vocabulary and reading comprehension questions, as well as a suggested essay in the Guide.

The book is suitable for high school or upper middle school.  Upon completion of the book, students will have learned how Europe’s Age of Exploration affected indigenous peoples around the world.

The photo below illustrates how the images in “Exploration and Conquest” capture dramatic moments in history.  Photos, such as the one featured here, will hold students’ attention and will help them understand critical concepts.

Ethiopian Resistance Fighters
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This photo was taken between 1935 and 1940 by an unknown author.  The men were part of organized resistance to Mussolini as he sought to expand his African colonies.