Philip Mansel

Kaiser Wilhelm’s guide to ruining a country

A review of Wilhelm II: Into the Abyss of War and Exile, 1900-1941, by John C.G. Röhl, translated by Sheila de Bellaigue and Roy Bridge. The anachro­nistic, racist and militaristic German monarch hastened his country’s self-destruction

He who must be obeyed: portrait of the Kaiser by Ferdinand Keller, 1893 [Getty Images]

The role of personality in politics is the theme of this awe-inspiring biography. This is the third volume, 1,562 pages long, of John Röhl’s life of the Kaiser. It has been brilliantly translated — the labyrinth of imperial Germany navigated by many headed subdivisions in each chapter — by Sheila de Bellaigue.

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