Jonathan Steinberg

Jonathan Steinberg teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. His biography of Bismarck came out in 2011.

I knew who Harry Kessler was of course, ‘the red count’, the Junker aristocrat who supported the Weimar Republic, and wrote a diary which I used in my seminars. Well, it turns out he wasn’t a Junker; indeed, it’s hard to say what he actually was. Imagine somebody who was at once an English public school boy, a French-born art critic and a Prussian guards officer. Then...

Princely Pride: Emperor Frederick III

Jonathan Steinberg, 10 May 2012

On 18 October 1881, Crown Prince Frederick William of Germany and Prussia marked his 50th birthday with a gloomy entry in his diary. He had been waiting to succeed to the throne for twenty years and his indomitable father refused to do the decent thing. At 84, the old man simply would not die. Worse, his ‘over-mighty subject’ Otto von Bismarck, in spite of constant illness and...

One Per Cent: The House of Rothschild

Jonathan Steinberg, 28 October 1999

On 25 November 1882, Iolanthe; or, The Peer and the Peri was performed for the first time at the Savoy Theatre. In Act II, a restless Lord Chancellor, troubled by lovesickness rather than the expense of his furnishings, cannot sleep. As he wanders through his lodgings, he sings the famous ‘Nightmare Song’. One of the elements of the nightmare is what would now be called a venture capital scheme – to plant retailers as vegetables to get their goods to sprout:’‘

Capos and Cardinals

Jonathan Steinberg, 17 August 1989

‘So you think it comes from the Arabic?’ says the first character.


Jonathan Steinberg, 18 December 1986

On 20 July 1943 the Polish artist Jonasz Stern was executed along with hundreds of other Jews of the Lwow ghetto by SS machchine-gun fire. He awoke from a faint to find himself alive, buried under the corpses of the entire neighbourhood, covered in other people’s blood and excrement, the only survivor on Janowski Street. Two of the books reviewed here are about survivors, people who turned right instead of left, ran instead of lingering or lingered instead of running, those who met kindly Polish peasants or had ‘good faces’ – did not look Jewish, that is to say – individuals who survived, crazily, randomly, inexplicably, when everybody else, not just their families but neighbours, associates at work, team-mates, local shopkeepers, their whole world, was murdered.’

I could bite the table: Bismarck

Christopher Clark, 31 March 2011

In the autumn of 1862, the Kingdom of Prussia was paralysed by a constitutional crisis. Wilhelm I and his military advisers wanted to expand and improve the army. The liberal-dominated Prussian...

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Something good

H. Stuart Hughes, 13 September 1990

In the late summer of 1942 a small group of Italian diplomats and senior officers decided to save the lives of a few thousand Jews. The Jews, mostly from Croatia, had fled to the parts of...

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