5 Books on the History of Prussia


1. Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947 by Christopher Clark

Since its publication in 2006, Iron Kingdom has undoubtedly been the most extensive and detailed work on the history of Prussia. Clark addresses a huge timeframe, offering chronological information and crucial analysis on the politics, culture, philosophy, and religion of the time with regard to the Prussian state. The book is written as a scholarly source, though its chronological and methodical structure makes it a popular choice for amateur historians and history enthusiasts.  The biggest strength of this book lies in its scope, as it is currently impossible to find a similar work that offers such an elaborate history of Prussia in a single volume.


2. Frederick the Great: King of Prussia by Timothy C.W. Blanning

As a unique example of an enlightened monarch and philosopher-king, Frederick the Great is one of the most interesting figures of not only Prussian, but also the entire European history. In this biography, Blanning manages to offer a comprehensive overview of Frederick’s life, his views and his political and military career. He brilliantly connects the experiences of Frederick from different parts of his life and creates a detailed portrait of the great Prussian king. Although there has been many attempts to write biographies of Frederick, Blanning’s work far exceeds other works in its elaborate approach.


3. The Rise and Fall of Prussia by Sebastian Haffner

Written by a non-historian, The Rise and Fall of Prussia presents a concise history of Prussia. This work appeals to non-scholarly readers with its messy structure and sentences full of intriguing views. Although not the ideal work for the seasoned reader, this work of Haffner is a good alternative for those who are looking for a brief yet satisfying account on the history of Prussia.


4. Austria, Prussia and the Making of Modern Germany, 1806-1871 by John Breuilly

Unlike other books recommended in this list, Breuilly’s work focuses on a specific time period with a specific aim and approach. Taking into account the centuries-long German dualism, Breuilly analyzes the 19th century adventures of these two German states, as well as their relation to the rest of the German world, the spheres of diplomacy, politics and warfare that defined next centuries. It is a great book for those who wish to observe Prussia’s evolution to the German Empire and how the political culture changed within less than a century in Germany.


5. The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871 by Geoffrey Wawro

In this book, Geoffrey Wawro describes the moment in which the world’s fate was sealed. Focusing on the great war of 1870-71 between France and German states, Wawro not only offers an excellent collection of information and analysis but tells the story of this war as if it is a novel. His style, combined with the exciting historical event it discusses, creates a must-read book for those interested in the history of Prussia and Europe. This book is one of the best in a less known but significantly influential event of recent history, and for that it deserves a spot in this list.


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