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Blood and Iron


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About the Author

Katja Hoyer FRHistS is an Anglo-German historian. She was born in East Germany and read history at the Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London. Her essays have featured in History Today and BBC History Extra, and she also writes for the Spectator, the Washington Post, UnHerd, Die Welt and other newspapers on current political affairs in Germany and Europe. Blood and Iron is her first book. She is based in Sussex, UK.


Katja Hoyer’s well-researched and well-written book is the best biography of the Second Reich in years. She cogently argues that what started in Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors need not have ended in the disaster of the Great War, and rightly rescues Bismarck from the ignominy of being a forerunner of Hitler. It will undoubtedly become the essential account of this vitally important part of European history
*Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny*

Splendidly lucid and readable: Katja Hoyer has managed to compress fifty years of great complexity into a compelling and comprehensible narrative – and it is a story that every European needs to know and to understand
*Dr Neil MacGregor, author of Germany: Memories of a Nation*

Excellent ... Fluently written and convincingly argued, Blood and Iron is a brilliant account of an important period of history, and one that marks the arrival of a major new talent ... Hoyer provides a nuanced and thoughtful discussion of the causes of conflict in 1914
*Saul David, Daily Telegraph*

Brisk, thoughtful and thoroughly engaging
*Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times*

Hoyer has mastered an intimidating jungle of material and written a balanced and hugely accessible introduction to the age when Germany became Germany ... Hoyer renders a vivid account of Wilhelm's overweening ineptitude. The Kaiser was so gaffe-prone that his ministers frequently had to issue the press with hastily rewritten transcripts of his improvised speeches
*Oliver Moody, The Times*

Katja Hoyer has written an excellent book on the rise and fall of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918 that is packed with detail and illuminating insights. She shows very effectively the changes in German foreign policy after Bismarck’s fall from power, and the more provocative stance of Kaiser Wilhelm’s world policy that contributed to the outbreak of the First World War, and brought out Germany’s expansionist aims during the conflict. Overall, this book fills a gap in our understanding of the Second Reich, and it helps us to understand more clearly the reasons for its failure
*Professor Frank McDonough, author of The Hitler Years*

Hoyer brings this dense period of German history to life with a lightness of touch that complements her impressive scholarship. A deeply satisfying read, highly recommended
*Julia Boyd, author of Travellers in the Third Reich*

Concise and incisive, this sparkling examination of the rise and fall of the Second Reich is an excellent introduction to a crucial period of German history
*Professor Tim Blanning, author of Frederick the Great*

We ought all to know more about the rise of the Second German Reich, founded with blood and iron in Otto von Bismarck’s words, because the great catastrophes of the 20th century flow from it. In entertaining prose, Katja Hoyer makes that history highly accessible, and paints lively portraits of the political genius Bismarck and the naive egotist Kaiser Wilhelm II
*Michael Portillo, author of Portillo's Hidden History of Britain*

Engaging and enlightening in equal measure, Blood and Iron is a brilliant synthesis of a complex history which will be welcomed by students and general readers alike
*Roger Moorhouse, author of First to Fight: The Polish War 1939*

Anyone, student or general "history buff", in search of a readable but authoritative guide to how modern Germany came into being need look no further than Katja Hoyer’s Blood and Iron. The familiar political and military battlefields are all compellingly described. Bismarck and Co. have their due. However, the author also explores many fascinating and less well-known aspects of German culture and public life during that period – equally important factors in the epic story of how this vibrant, often turbulent, society on the move propelled itself in just a few decades from an underpowered feudal patchwork of semi-connected states to become the cultural, economic and military titan that was Germany in 1914. Hoyer’s account of Germany between the Napoleonic Era and the Great War stands as an admirable achievement of both narrative and analytical history. Highly recommended
*Frederick Taylor, author of 1939: A People's History*

An important and complex subject told with clarity and verve
*Catrine Clay, author of The Good Germans*

The themes of political fragility, social cleavages and pervasive militarism give an impressive depth and coherence to Hoyer’s tightly written narrative
*Tony Barber, Financial Times*

Excellent and entertaining ... Hoyer is no apologist for Prussia, but she convincingly argues that, aside from all the 'blood and iron' bluster, Bismarck's Reich was a halfway house between absolute monarchy and democracy
*Maurice Frank, Literary Review*

The themes of political fragility, social cleavages and pervasive militarism give a convincing coherence to Hoyer’s tightly written narrative of German history between 1871 and 1918. She is rightly sceptical of the once fashionable idea that Germany was on a “special path” that distinguished its development from that of Britain, France or the US
*Tony Barber, Financial Times Summer Books of 2021*

An elegant new book on the period
*The Times*

The German Empire born in 1871 has all too often been seen as the troubled precursor of the terrible Nazi successor. Katja Hoyer helps us to see that the empire held out other possibilities which only the catastrophe of the Great War undermined. Brief and accessible, this should become a standard text for those who want to understand the origins of Germany today
*Richard Overy, author of The Bombing War*

In 1862, Bismarck created a Germany, says Hoyer, “whose only binding experience was conflict against external enemies”. Fearful that its 39 individual states would drift apart again, Bismarck kept Germany on “a constant diet of conflict” – whipping up hostility to internal enemies, like Catholics, socialists and ethnic minorities. Hoyer’s nuanced study shows the long run-up to war in 1914
* Best Books*

I so admired Katja Hoyer’s Blood And Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German Empire 1871-1918, an outstanding, authoritative and gripping, short but deep, history of the Second Reich, rendering its singular flawed nature as part-democracy, part-medieval-autocracy with acute portraits of its cast of heroes and monsters
*Simon Sebag Montefiore, Aspects of History Books of 2021*

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