A Mighty Fortress
A New History of the German PeopleBook - 2004
The word "German" was being used by the Romans as early as the mid-first century B.C. to describe tribes in the eastern Rhine valley. Nearly two thousand years later, the richness and complexity of German history have faded beneath the long shadow of the country's darkest hour in World War II. Now award-winning historian Steven Ozment, whom the New Yorker has hailed as "a splendidly readable scholar," gives us the fullest portrait possible in this sweeping, original, and provocative history of the German people, from antiquity to the present, holding a mirror up to an entire civilization -- one that has been alternately Western Europe's most successful and most perilous.
A Mighty Fortress boldly examines Germany's tumultuous twentieth century in light of its earliest achievements as a prosperous, civil, and moral society, tracing a line of continuity that began in ancient times and has endured through the ages, despite its enemies and itself. Ozment's story takes us from the tribes of the Roman Empire and the medieval dynasties to the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification. He shows that the Germans are a people who desire national unity yet have kept themselves from it by aligning with autocratic territorial governments and regional cultures. From Luther, Kant, Goethe, and Beethoven to Marx, Einstein, Bismarck, and Hitler, the country's leading figures have always tried to become everything and more than what ordinary mortals could be. In fact, Germans living centuries apart have shared in different ways a common defining experience that is unique to their culture: a convergence of external provocation and wounded pride, and an unusual ability to exercise great power in response to both.
In this work of penetrating, virtuoso scholarship, Steven Ozment captures the soul of a nation that is at once ordered and chaotic, disciplined and obsessive, proud and uncertain. Epic in scope, refreshing in its insights, and written with nuance, acumen, and verve, A Mighty Fortress presents the history of the Germans as the story of humanity writ large.