Christopher Clark. Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Fall of Prussia 1600-1947. London: Penguin Books, 2006 [Book review]

2017-05-22T03:01:29Z (GMT) by David Blencowe
Any account of Prussian historical identity and its legacy in modern Germany is a difficult and contentious undertaking. This has much to do with the loaded associations that swirl around the word Prussia and its sinister counterpart "Prussiandom," but it is also because of the origin of the Prussian state itself. As Christopher Clark writes in <i>Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947</i>, his wonderful history of this extinct European power, Prussia vindicates the view that states are not natural formations but "contingent, artificial creations." Clark frequently reminds us that the kingdom of Prussia had no natural boundaries, and that there was no specifically Prussian culture, language or cuisine. Prussia was a patchwork, consisting of disparate ethnic and cultural groups spread over wide-ranging and not always contiguous territories. Prussian identity was thus "curiously abstract and fragmented." Even the name Prussia assumes a "contrived quality." It referred not to the heartland of the Hohenzollern dynasty, which was centred on Berlin and the Mark Brandenburg, but to the remote duchy on the eastern Baltic that the dynasty acquired in the seventeenth century and which remained for a long time cut off from the rest of the lands.