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Blood and Iron

The Rise and Fall of the German Empire

In this vivid fifty-year history of Germany from 1871-1918—which inspired events that forever changed the European continent—here is the story of the Second Reich from its violent beginnings and rise to power to its calamitous defeat in the First World War.

Before 1871, Germany was not yet nation but simply an idea.

Its founder, Otto von Bismarck, had a formidable task at hand. How would he bring thirty-nine individual states under the yoke of a single Kaiser?  How would he convince proud Prussians, Bavarians, and Rhinelanders to become Germans? Once united, could the young European nation wield enough power to rival the empires of Britain and France—all without destroying itself in the process?

In this unique study of five decades that changed the course of modern history, Katja Hoyer tells the story of the German Empire from its violent beginnings to its calamitous defeat in the First World War.

This often startling narrative is a dramatic tale of national self-discovery, social upheaval, and realpolitik that ended, as it started, in blood and iron.

Katja Hoyer is a German-British historian specializing in modern German history. She was born in East Germany and is a member of the Royal Historical Society in London and has written for History Today and BBC History Extra among other history outlets. Katja now lives in Sussex, England.

Advance praise for Blood and Iron:

"Hoyer’s well-researched and well-written book is the best biography of the Second Reich in years. It will undoubtedly become the essential account of this vitally important part of European history.”

– Andrew Roberts, New York Times bestselling author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny

"Brisk, thoughtful and thoroughly engaging.”

– Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times (London)

"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.”

– Neil MacGregor, author of Germany: Memories of a Nation

"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, Los Angeles Times History Prize-winning author of Travelers 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.”

– Tim Blanning, author of Frederick the Great

"Hoyer has written a balanced and hugely accessible introduction to the age when Germany became Germany.”

– Oliver Moody, The Times (London)

“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. 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.”

– Frank McDonough, author of The Hitler Years