The roots of 20th-century German aggression

It is the contention of Peter Wilson, professor of the history of war at Oxford University and the author of an acclaimed history of the Thirty Years’ War, that military historians have focused too much on the German wars of the 20th century in trying to understand German ‘militarism’ as a distinctive characteristic – a ‘genius for war’ imitated by others. As he points out, Germany and Austria lost the first world war, and Germany, with Austria now attached, lost the second as well. A ‘genius for war’ evidently needs some rethinking. Wilson wants to place these modern wars in perspective, stretching back to the 15th century. To understand how

Whitewashing Bismarck just won’t wash

The reviewer’s first duty is to declare any skin he may have in the game, so here goes: I write this in a bone-chillingly old house filled with portraits of Prussian Junkers, ancestors of my third son, the oldest of them still wearing steel plate about chest and shoulders, the more recent armoured only by expressions of ineffable superiority. What a lot of them there are. Somehow their Lutheran Prussia — dirt poor by the standards of France and Britain but uniquely militarised, its spiritual heart so far east as to be now in Russia — managed, in the second half of the 19th century, to annex the entire human