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Wilhelm II
Into the Abyss of War and Exile, 1900–1941


  • Date Published: February 2014
  • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from December 2018
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521844314

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About the Authors
  • This final volume of John Röhl's acclaimed biography of Kaiser Wilhelm II reveals the Kaiser's central role in the origins of the First World War. The book examines the Kaiser's part in the Boer War, the Russo-Japanese War, the naval arms race with Britain and Germany's rivalry with the United States as well as in the crises over Morocco, Bosnia and Agadir. It also sheds new light on the public scandals which accompanied his reign from the allegations of homosexuality made against his intimate friends to the Daily Telegraph Affair. Above all, John Röhl scrutinises the mounting tension between Germany and Britain and the increasing pressure the Kaiser exerted on his Austro-Hungarian ally from 1912 onwards to resolve the Serbian problem. Following Germany's defeat and Wilhelm's enforced abdication, he charts the Kaiser's bitter experience of exile in Holland and his frustrated hopes that Hitler would restore him to the throne.

    • The most comprehensive account ever written of the Kaiser's and Imperial Germany's role in the outbreak of war in 1914
    • Clearly shows the unwillingness of the Kaiser and his Court to accept the international status quo and their responsibility for the First World War
    • Coverage of the Kaiser both in power and in exile reveals the powerful strands of continuity between the Germany that Bismarck united in 1871 and the Third Reich which Hitler destroyed in the Second World War
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'A masterpiece and one of the greatest political biographies of our times.' Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Times

    'The single most important recent contribution to the debate on the causes of the First World War.' BBC History Magazine

    'One of the outstanding biographies of the past twenty years.' Philip Mansel, The Spectator

    'A powerful and impressive thesis.' Jonathan Sperber, The Times Literary Supplement

    'Devastating.' Norman Stone, Literary Review

    'Magisterial is the only word that adequately describes Röhl's final installment of his authoritative biography of Kaiser Wilhelm II. This massive tome examines in a most engaging way the personal role the Kaiser played in facilitating the major political and diplomatic crises leading to the Great War … Highly recommended.' M. A. Mengerink, Choice

    'Reviewers of Röhl's work will find it difficult to avoid echoing each other: adjectives such as 'monumental' and 'definitive' are well-nigh inescapable in the face of this enormous achievement … Future researchers with an interest in any aspect of the Kaiser's life or his role in the government of Imperial Germany will find Röhl an indispensable guide to the documentary record.' Andrew G. Bonnell, European History Quarterly

    'This book is the final instalment of John Röhl's exhaustive and magisterial three-volume biography of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Like the two preceding parts, this volume is meticulously researched, full of new insights, beautifully written and, notwithstanding its great length and substantial weight, difficult to put down. Taken either on its own or as the culmination of a trilogy, it is a monumental achievement…This is an outstanding work. So much new research and scholarship has gone into completing it that it is difficult to imagine what other new documents might be out there waiting to be unearthed that would materially add to what Röhl has written. Equally, with this volume and its two predecessors in the public domain it is hard to see why anyone else would attempt a new study of Wilhelm II. While no work of history ever has the final word, surely this is as close to definitive as a biography can get.' Matthew S. Seligmann, The English Historical Review

    'Scholars of the period owe a great debt to Röhl. Whether, in the final analysis, one agrees with his reading of Wilhelm, Röhl has redirected attention to the importance of human agency in history. In tandem, he has also liberated his subject both from being a caricature, a cardboard cutout knave, and from the less-than-benign neglect of those with structuralist predilections.' T. G. Otte, The Journal of Modern History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521844314
    • length: 1591 pages
    • dimensions: 254 x 180 x 60 mm
    • weight: 2.88kg
    • contains: 71 b/w illus.
    • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from December 2018
  • Table of Contents

    1. Death and transfiguration
    2. The Kaiser and England during the Boer War
    3. 'I am the balance of power in Europe': Wilhelm between Britain, Russia and France
    4. The Boxer Rebellion and the Baghdad Railway
    5. The shabby compromise: Wilhelm II and Bülow's Chancellorship
    6. Wilhelm II and the Germans, 1900–1904
    7. 'We two make history and destiny is in our hands!' Kaiser and Tsar on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War
    8. The Anglo-German antagonism: the Kaiser, the King and public opinion
    9. The Kaiser and America
    10. Uncle and nephew: Edward VII and the 'encirclement' of Germany
    11. East Asia in flames: the Russo-Japanese War and its consequences
    12. Operational plans for a war in Western Europe
    13. 'Paris must get one in the eye from us one day!' The Kaiser and the First Morocco Crisis
    14. 'A turning point in the history of Europe', or the fiasco of Björkö
    15. Balance of power or hegemony? The Anglo-German conflict and the quarrel with King Edward
    16. Humiliation in Algeciras
    17. 'Encirclement': caught in the web of the Entente
    18. Germany's 'Dreadnought Leap': the Kaiser and 'his' navy
    19. The zenith of personal monarchy: the Kaiser and the government on the eve of the great crisis
    20. 'Kings are only human, after all': scandals at the Hohenzollern court
    21. Prince Eulenburg's downfall: the campaign against the Liebenberg 'Camarilla'
    22. The Kaiser's visit to Windsor and Highcliffe, November-December 1907
    23. The hot summer of 1908: on the verge of war with Britain
    24. 'Our Kaiser and his People!' The crisis of Wilhelm's personal monarchy
    25. Nemesis: Wilhelm II and the Daily Telegraph affair
    26. Upheaval in the Balkans: Kaiser Wilhelm and the Bosnian Annexation Crisis of 1908–09
    27. The 'pantomime': from Bülow to Bethmann Hollweg
    28. Wilhelm and the direction of foreign policy under Bethmann Hollweg
    29. The king is dead, or new hopes of an agreement with England
    30. Agadir: the leap of the Panther
    31. 'The enemy identified': the acceleration of the naval race and the growing menace of war
    32. 'Already leader of the United States of Europe'? The Kaiser and the debacle of the Haldane Mission
    33. November 1912: the strategic switch from West to East
    34. Deterrence: the unresolved problem of Britain's neutrality
    35. 'Berlin has warned us off again': the 'postponed racial war against Slavdom'
    36. Kaiser and Reich: Wilhelm's Personal Monarchy on the eve of war
    37. 'With head held high and hand on hilt!' Preparations for war 1913–14
    38. Summer 1914: the decision for war
    39. The Kaiser's last Norwegian cruise
    40. Confusion in Potsdam: the fear of Britain's involvement
    41. Into the abyss: the outbreak of war
    42. The Supreme War Lord in the First World War
    43. The Kaiser's war aims
    44. Downfall: the collapse of the Hohenzollern monarchy
    45. The unicorn in winter: a new life in exile
    46. 'Blood must flow, much blood': the Kaiser and the 'swinish' Weimar Republic
    47. Monarch by the grace of Hitler? Wilhelm II and the Third Reich.

  • 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, 1998) and Wilhelm II: The Kaiser's Personal Monarchy, 1888–1900 (Cambridge, 2004), which have won the Einhard Prize for the biography of a major European figure in 2012.


    Sheila de Bellaigue

    Roy Bridge

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