Read The Course of German History by A.J.P. Taylor Online


One of A.J.P. Taylor's best-known books, The Course of German History is a notoriously idiosyncratic work. Composed in his famously witty style, yet succinct to the point of sharpness, this is one of the great historian's finest, if more controversial, accomplishments. As Taylor himself noted, 'the history of the Germans is a history of extremes. It contains everything excOne of A.J.P. Taylor's best-known books, The Course of German History is a notoriously idiosyncratic work. Composed in his famously witty style, yet succinct to the point of sharpness, this is one of the great historian's finest, if more controversial, accomplishments. As Taylor himself noted, 'the history of the Germans is a history of extremes. It contains everything except moderation.' He could, of course, simply be referring to his own book....

Title : The Course of German History
Author :
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ISBN : 9780415254052
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 306 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Course of German History Reviews

  • Rallorien
    2019-05-01 19:26

    I picked up this book on a whim from the library, mostly because my German history between Charlemagne and the world wars was completely lacking. I ended up actually reading it as an anthropological study of the history of history – or something like that. Taylor was purposely being rather absurd in his claims, such as "... after Bach, Lutheran Germany had no cultural existence" (10) and phases like "an attempt without meaning" (165) to describe any democratic or non-fascist political moves. His general thesis – that Germany was to always work to conquer all of Europe and who's people never tried to make it democratic – is as outdated as his love of "inevitable" directions of history. That being said, however, it's an interesting book. His understanding of balances within the political structures of each of the governments is a good description of the complexity of governance, and his ability to explain the historical trends is very helpful, although he does tend to ignore any popular ideologies or movements because they, supposedly, made no difference to Germany. If you don't mind playing "what's obviously wrong on this page?" it's a good historical overview. However, I perhaps should have picked up a different, more moderate history to gain a general understanding before reading this book and trying to pick out the controversial (or just wrong) statements.

  • Jeremy Thin
    2019-05-20 21:39

    Ridiculous, preposterous but enjoyable.

  • Ben Craik
    2019-05-05 20:25

    Taylor's book is a product of its time. To my mind - with it's twenty-first century sensibilities - it is too concerned with high politics and far too polemical.

  • David Sutherland
    2019-05-08 17:44

    Simply a brilliant history book for those students of German history and for those wishing to read a superb summary of nineteenth and twentieth century German history up to July 1945. The preface sets the tone of Taylor's critical assessment of Germany and the Germans. For those accusing Taylor of holding brutal anti-German views, he reminds the reader that "the facts made it for themselves" - facts which indeed stand before us all to see, to learn, and to try and understand. The first chapter sets the scene with a summation of German history from the time of Charlemagne in the year 800 to the outbreak of the French revolution in 1789. This summary of nearly 1,000 years of German history in just twenty-four pages must stand alone as one of the greatest accomplishments in historical writing of any age. Taylor's lucid and evocative style may unsettle some readers, but it does stimulate the mind to ask questions, and lays the scene for the rest of the book. Of course, no one wishes to be described or labelled as a 'barbarian', even a 'barbarian of genius'. But I rather suspect those who express concern at this language may not have learnt all the facts, or who may not wish to admit their own German heritage.Of the following chapters, I would highly recommend the chapter on the failed liberal revolution of 1848, which of course laid many of the seeds for the future troubles of Germany. Also, Taylor's analysis of Bismarck in the following chapters, and the way in which this German statesman balanced the aims of achieving 'Little Germany', whilst keeping those happy craving for 'Greater Germany', is another tremendous achievement in this book, and is highly recommended.Also, the final chapters on the failure of the Weimar Republic and the rise of National Socialism are of particular value. Those looking for in-depth details of the blatant anti-Semitism of the Third German Reich may be surprised by the lack of details of the barbarity of this episode in human history. Instead, Taylor focuses on the continuing 'balancing act' of Hitler's aim of achieving both 'Little' and 'Greater' German objectives, all focused ultimately in achieving the age-long German dream of 'Mitteleuropa'. Finally, it is a shame the book ends with the meeting at Potsdam in July 1945. Having begun the book with a 'Divided' Germany, the post-war settlement of a once-more divided Germany would have been useful, and would have perhaps represented another 'squaring of the circle'. Taylor does allude to this divided state in the Preface of 1961. It appears Germany has always been the most stable when divided, and certainly in the case of West Germany up to 1989, the most happy as well. Whether this trend continues with the current 'Little German' state within the context of the European Union, remains to be seen.

  • Shyam Sundar
    2019-05-18 20:22

    I started off this book with high expectations, having read AJP Taylor's "Origins of the Second World War". However, Taylor is nauseatingly Germanophobic. He doesn't hide his opinions about the Germans at all. He starts by claiming that they are barbarians, have always been so and will always remain so, unless they are civilized under the weight of foreign military power. He traces a "German national character" to the time of the Germanic invasion of the European plains - a character that repudiates liberties in the service of power and authority, and the ancient dislike of the Slavs and the desire to exterminate them. He portrays Martin Luther as the personification of Germany's contradictions, paints a very bad picture of Frederick the Great, and calls Bismarck "a genius of the barbarians". However, where Taylor really starts to shine is the period from 1848 to 1933. His descriptions of the 1848 revolution, Bismarck's (mis)achievements and the contradictions that plagued Germany throughout the period are brilliant, if one can read past his virulent contempt for Germans. He mentions Karl Marx's involvement in the 1848 revolution, and claims that while Marx created Socialism in order to foment a revolution, Marxists ended up try to foment a revolution in order to achieve Socialism!Taylor describes Germany as a semi-military state that was 'conquered' by Prussia, an army with a state, which was hated by every other German state. Bismarck, whose aim was to protect the aristocratic Junker class, had to create Little Germany to avoid Greater Germany, since the latter would destroy the Junkers. But the inherent contradiction of Bismarck's policy was that any move towards Little Germany had to inevitably move towards Greater Germany. Taylor shows that Bismarck was his own enemy, since Bismarck always had to fight against the consequences of his own actions. Germany after Bismarck was on the verge of collapse, according to Taylor, and could only survive through expansion. Hence, a German run for domination of Europe was inevitable, and in fact, wished for by all Germans. Their internal bickering after the Great War was underlined by a united feeling of national revival. The National Socialists under Hitler emerged as the only movement which managed to bring in Germans of every caste, class and ideology under a broad wing. Taylor rightly describes German history as full of extremes. A more neutral tone, and study of German perceptions of their Slavic neighbors would have made the book much better. Nevertheless, it is still a good book to read, but only for those who have an extremely strong foundation of 19th and 20th century history.

  • carltheaker
    2019-04-21 15:29

    Excellent book, which is renown itself. A recent review regardingits reprinting inspired me to read it. First published right after wwii, it remains in print to this day which is an endorsement of its insights. Which I've since read where people don't necessarily agree with them!Appears that Taylor was a bit of personality of the day, appearing onradio talk shows and panels of all sorts in his day 40-50s.Not a typical description for the 'stodgy' British historian.It is one of those books where i start taking notes, but then half the book is worthy of remembering, so give up after awhile.some of the interesting observations :Without democracy socialism would be worth nothing, but democracy isworth a great deal even when it is not socialist.(Regarding the Slavs)... as the Anglo-Saxons had succeeded in North America exterminatingthe Indians, the effect would have been what it had on theAmericans: The Germans would have become the advocates of brotherlylove and international reconciliation.Cheap trade with India -crushed the prosperous Hanseatic League.Luther, in the end sided with the Northern princes(against the little people).Junkers - a working upper class, different than the gentry ofEngland or aristocracy of France, had to be painfully frugal to makean existence out of the sandy plains and marshes of Prussia. Thislater reflected in the general 'German' character of efficiency. Themiddle American farmer also came to reflect these values.(Re: Hitler's rise)- at once everyone's enemy and everyone's friend: his programme of contradictory principles could succeed only in a community which had already lost all unity and self-confidence.offering all to all. The people could find the promise of action,new hope for themselves.Bismarck creating social security, a peculiarly ingenious idea, a greatpolitical coup, the people & somewhat the employer paid their moneyto the government, which provided a structure to dispense their ownmoney back to them, in turn they gave up an amount of liberty becausenow they were in debt to their government for their own money.making the workers value security more than liberty.

  • Edmund O'Connor
    2019-05-16 14:51

    Taylor's prose, especially here, is always laced with a flair for the dramatic and eye-catching. It is difficult to imagine a historian with a less clear-cut view of the subject at hand, which is refreshing in a field where so many hedges and qualifications can be offered up as to obscure whatever point is hesitantly being made.However, the reverse of that is that Taylor brusquely dismisses or ignores any fact and trend that does not fit his thesis. While it is understandable that he had very good reason to be caustic about the Germans (city centres throughout the UK weren't being flattened by themselves at that point in time), his invective often gets out of hand, and he often lets himself be seduced by a witty bon mot, whether it is true or not. The 'bad boy' of post-war British historiography is perhaps being wilfully contrary, daring you think, "steady on, old chap", and is simply delighted when you do. Throw his book across the room in disgust, and he would be thrilled.Despite these big caveats, Taylor efficiently and crisply covers a lot of ground in a field which readers of history in English are more than a little unfamiliar with. Keep your cool, and wryly raise your eyebrow when his typewriter runs away with him. You'll learn a thing or two.

  • Corey
    2019-04-19 19:35

    Beware, this author assumes his reader is fairly well versed in the history of the period. Refreshingly frank account of rise of Germany from 1815. Showing Hitler as not so much an aberration, but a continuation of expansionist German policy. I found some of the descriptions of the internal politics of Germany in the 1877-1914 period especially enlightening in better understanding the origins of WWI and the ineptitude really of German government, a truly great power in the hands of an immature, archaic government. The book was written by an eminent British scholar in the closing days of WWII. There's a little bitterness evident, but he has his facts straight. And Germany clearly had a problem. Another noteworthy observation concerns German hatred towards the Treaty of Versailles, which is usually thought to focus on reparations and the infamous war guilt clause. Taylor makes a good case though that German ire, across the whole spectrum of German society, was more directed to their being treated as an equal to the slavic states. It was this equality which every German wished to repudiate as history ordained that Germany was to be the master of the region.

  • David Lowther
    2019-05-15 21:47

    AJP Taylor was one of the finest popular historians of the Twentieth Century. Much, but not all, of his writing was aimed at people interested in history rather than students of it. The Course of German History was written during the final months of the Second World War. The closing chapters, covering the period from the fall of Bismarck to the defeat of Hitler, are superb and would help anyone trying to figure out why there were two such devastating wars in the Twentieth Century. I found the rest of the book a bit stuffy and rather too scholarly for my liking.Well worth a read, however.David Lowther. Author of The Blue Pencil, Liberating Belsen and Two Families at War, all published by Sacristy Press

  • David Nichols
    2019-05-14 17:26

    A great book for German-haters, written by an Englishman at the very end of World War Two. It contains two of Taylor's most famous quotes: one on the 1848 Revolutions - "German history reached its turning point and failed to turn" - and the other on Hitler, whose only flaw, according to the author, was that he was a German.

  • David Warwick
    2019-05-12 18:32

    Fascinating, deeply provocative book by one of Britain's most famous and celebrated historians.Deeply scathing about certain perceived "tendencies" in German history, most of which would be rejected by more considered historians, but very thought provoking and extremely readable all the same.

  • David Thornber
    2019-05-09 17:28

    AJP Taylor's opinion. But he has been there and seen a lot. Worth reading.

  • Ron
    2019-04-19 18:36

    College textbook for German history course.

  • Madeeha Maqbool
    2019-04-26 21:34

    Written in 1945, this was bound to be biased against the Germans. Even so, it's an excellent way to get started and does have some invaluable insights. Just don't take it as the last word.