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Between Saviour and Villian: 100 Years of Bismarck Biographies

Karina Urbach
The Historical Journal
Vol. 41, No. 4 (Dec., 1998), pp. 1141-1160
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3020865
Page Count: 20
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Between Saviour and Villian: 100 Years of Bismarck Biographies
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Abstract

While non-German biographers of Bismarck have usually kept a healthy distance from their subject, German biographers have often allowed their political and religious views to influence their portraits. Most German historians of the `long nineteenth century' were fascinated by, as Hegel would have called it, the genius of such a `world historical individual'. Their work greatly influenced the images of Bismarck during the time of the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. Their counterparts in the 1960s and 1970s, however focused critically on the `impersonal' movements of the Bismarckian empire. These, Marxist influenced, analyses did not include any biographies. It was only in the 1980s that three biographers achieved a politically detached evaluation of the chancellor's personality. With the centenary of Bismarck's death in 1998, a return to the pre-1980s views can be noticed in biographies of the chancellor. They threaten to oversimplify Bismarck's personality and government technique again.

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