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Kaiser Wilhelm II
A Concise Life


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  • Date Published: August 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107420779

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About the Authors
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859–1941) is one of the most fascinating figures in European history, ruling Imperial Germany from his accession in 1888 to his enforced abdication in 1918 at the end of the First World War. In one slim volume, John Röhl offers readers a concise and accessible survey of his monumental three-volume biography of the Kaiser and his reign. The book sheds new light on Wilhelm's troubled youth, his involvement in social and political scandals, and his growing thirst for glory, which, combined with his overwhelming nationalism and passion for the navy provided the impetus for a breathtaking long-term goal: the transformation of the German Reich into one of the foremost powers in the world. The volume examines the crucial role played by Wilhelm as Germany's Supreme War Lord in the policies that led to war in 1914. It concludes by describing the rabid anti-Semitism he developed in exile and his efforts to persuade Hitler to restore him to the throne.

    • A concise edition of the award-winning, comprehensive three-volume biography by the same author
    • One of the supreme biographical undertakings of modern times
    • Transforms our understanding of Imperial Germany and of the events that led to the outbreak of the First World War
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    • An Economist Book of the Year 2014

    Reviews & endorsements

    'This ranks as one of the greatest political biographies of our time. Superb, important, magisterial - sometimes even hilarious and as compellingly fascinating as it is academically definitive.' Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2004)

    'A brief summary of Rohl's mighty three volume biography.' Sunday Times

    'In this powerful portrait Rohl reveals the monstrosity of the man behind the posturing monarch.' The Times

    'Rohl's scholarship and authority still shine through the pacey narrative. And what a devastating portrait it is.' The Economist

    'The sharp, distinctly unflattering portrait of the Kaiser which emerges from this brilliant short book is the more convincing because of the scrupulous fairness with which John Rohl has treated his unappealing subject and the extraordinary circumstances that shaped him.' Lord Lexden, House

    '… a concise examination of the life, character, and actions of the Kaiser. … This is certainly the best one-volume treatment of the Kaiser.' NYMAS Review

    … certainly the best one-volume treatment of the Kaiser.' StrategyPage (

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107420779
    • length: 261 pages
    • dimensions: 215 x 138 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • contains: 31 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Preface to the English edition
    Preface to the German edition
    Overview: Wilhelm the Last, a German trauma
    Part I. 1859–88: The Tormented Prussian Prince:
    1. The 'soul murder' of an heir to the throne
    2. Ambivalent motherhood
    3. A daring educational experiment
    4. The conflict between the Prince of Prussia and his parents
    5. 1888: the year of the three Kaisers
    Part II. 1888–1900: The Anachronistic Autocrat:
    6. Divine right without end
    7. Bismarck's fall from power, 1889–90
    8. The establishment of the Kaiser's personal monarchy, 1890–97
    9. The Chancellor as courtier: the corrupt Bülow system (1897–1909)
    Part III. 1896–1908: The Egregious Expansionist:
    10. The challenge to Europe: Weltmachtpolitik and the battlefleet
    11. The Russo-Japanese War and the meeting of the emperors on Björkö (1904–5)
    12. War in the west? The landing in Tangier and the fiasco of Algeciras (1905–6)
    13. The intensification of the Anglo-German conflict
    Part IV. 1906–9: The Scandal-Ridden Sovereign:
    14. The Eulenburg affair (1906–9)
    15. Bülow's betrayal of the Kaiser: the Daily Telegraph crisis (1908–9)
    16. From Bülow to Bethmann Hollweg: the Chancellor merry-go-round of 1909
    Part V. 1908–14: The Bellicose Supreme War Lord:
    17. The Bosnian annexation crisis (1908–9)
    18. The 'leap of the Panther' to Agadir (1911)
    19. The battlefleet and the growing risk of war with Britain (1911–12)
    20. Doomed to failure: the Haldane mission of 1912
    21. Turmoil in the Balkans and a first decision for war (November 1912)
    22. War postponed: the 'War Council' of 8 December 1912
    23. The postponed war draws nearer (1913–14)
    24. The Kaiser in the crisis of July 1914
    Part VI. 1914–18: The Champion of God's Germanic Cause:
    25. The Kaiser's war aims
    26. The impotence of the supreme war lord at war
    27. Downfall: the collapse of the Hohenzollern monarchy
    Part VII. The Vengeful Exile (1918–41)
    28. A new life in Amerongen and Doorn
    29. The rabid anti-Semite in exile
    30. The Kaiser and Hitler

  • Author

    John C. G. Röhl, University of Sussex
    John C. G. Röhl is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Sussex. His many previous publications include The Kaiser and his Court (1994) which was awarded the Wolfson History Prize as well as the two previous volumes of his biography of Kaiser Wilhelm II - Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser's Early Life, 1859–1888 (Cambridge University Press, 1998) and Wilhelm II: The Kaiser's Personal Monarchy, 1888–1900 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), which have won the Einhard Prize for the biography of a major European figure in 2012.


    • An Economist Book of the Year 2014

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