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Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500 (2022)

af Peter H. Wilson

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1203227,362 (4)2
Peter Wilson looks to 500 years of history to contest rigid assumptions about German militarism. Historically German-speaking states have had complex--that is, typical--politics surrounding militarization, strategy, and civilian control. The belief in German military genius arose only in 1871 and was soon dashed by the two world wars.… (mere)
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"Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples Since 1500" by Peter H. Wilson is a thoroughly researched and comprehensive book about the military history of the German-speaking people, if you couldn't guess from the title. It is a detailed exploration of war, political creation, and destruction that has shaped the German-speaking people for the past four centuries.

The book begins with an introduction that explains the historical forces that united the German states into a political entity, while also giving a brief history of the concept of German-speaking people and discussing what distinguishes it from the political entity that is Germany.

The book provides a detailed examination of the wars of the past and shows how development in military strategy, tactics, and technology enabled them to repeatedly succeed in warfare. Wilson provides vivid accounts of significant battles throughout history,

Wilson also shows how Germany's military ability influenced the global political landscape. He details how different military leaders' decisions influenced the evolution of warfare. The book explores the moral and ethical dimensions of German militarism, which contribute to the development of their strategies and tactics.

The narrative style of the book is engaging and detailed, making it accessible to readers. The book is not just about military history but also explores social, political, and cultural aspects.

Overall, "Iron and Blood" is a comprehensive and informative work that offers a detailed view of the German-speaking people's military history and its impact on global politics. The book is recommended for students of military history, cultural history, and politics. ( )
  sgtbigg | Nov 3, 2023 |
History, Holy Roman Empire, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, War,
  VictorHalfwit | Aug 29, 2023 |
This is the third big, fat, impressive-looking volume of European history written by Peter Wilson and published by Harvard University Press. I bought the previous two and let them languish on the shelf, but Iron and Blood caught my attention, and I finished reading it a few months after purchasing it.

I think a lot of people would find this book to be too dry for their tastes, but I liked its dispassionate approach. For some reason, I also liked the way it presented broad, authoritative-sounding statements, one after another. They made me think, and often I ended up feeling that they conveyed important truths. As for concrete content, I think (for example) that it corrected faulty notions I had had about the unique military competence of Prussia, and also about the nature of Swiss neutrality.

When the book finally got up to the Nazi era, it seemed that Wilson had reached the limits of what he could address dispassionately. It was for this section that I subtracted half a point, because I felt that a little sloppiness slipped in:

1) On page 669, Wilson suggests that its success in the Spanish Civil War made Germany overconfident about the ease of carrying out aerial bombing of citizens. But on page 675, he says that German experience in that war "instilled false confidence in [the] effectiveness" of anti-aircraft artillery. It's hard to see how Germany could overestimate both sides of this equation.

2) On page 589, Wilson says: "The conservatives and Catholic Centre Party regrouped as the Christian Democratic Union (CDU - with its Bavarian sister party, the CSU)". But on page 696, he says: "The political right expressly reconstituted itself as Christian (the CDU and CSU)". I think the Catholic Centre Party was clearly and sincerely already Christian.

3) On page 700, Wilson first plays up the fact that "around 2,100 of the 35,000 long-service professionals" in the Bundeswehr were members of the "anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party". But later in the same paragraph he says that AfD allegiance among the Bundeswehr is less than that among the general population. Why even bother bringing it up then?

4) On page 672, Wilson writes that the deliberate targeting of German citizens by Allied bombers "fed into Germany's post-war sense of victimhood". On page 722, Wilson writes that the rape of 2 million German women by Red Army soldiers "reinforced Germans' sense of victimhood". On page 732, Wilson writes that the Soviet Union's retention of German civilians as slave laborers 11 years after the end of WWII "fuelled Germany's post-war victim narrative". To me, this incessant slant is offensive. ( )
3 stem cpg | May 13, 2023 |
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'Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided - that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849 - but by iron and blood [Eisen und Blut].'
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Peter Wilson looks to 500 years of history to contest rigid assumptions about German militarism. Historically German-speaking states have had complex--that is, typical--politics surrounding militarization, strategy, and civilian control. The belief in German military genius arose only in 1871 and was soon dashed by the two world wars.

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