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Christopher Clark

Christopher Clark is Regius Professor of History at Cambridge. His new book is Time and Power.

Still messing with our heads: Hitler in the Head

Christopher Clark, 7 November 2019

Knausgaard recalls the sensation of near nausea that overcame him as he began reading Mein Kampf: ‘Hitler’s words and Hitler’s thoughts were thereby admitted to my own mind and for a brief moment became a part of it.’ Brendan Simms confesses a similar apprehension: ‘the author,’ he writes, ‘has tried throughout to get into Hitler’s mind, without letting [Hitler] get into his.’ Whether Hitler gets into our minds, or we mislay something of our own inside his, it’s clear that this strange and hateful man, who has been dead for 74 years, is still messing with our heads.

Short Cuts: What would Bismarck do?

Christopher Clark, 26 September 2019

What​ would Otto von Bismarck, the chief architect of Germany’s 19th-century unification, do in the situation currently faced by the British government? This apparently esoteric question is more pertinent than one might think, because ‘what would Bismarck do?’ is something that Dominic Cummings, political playmaker to Boris Johnson, who has been ‘gaming’ the...

In their combination​ of intensity and geographical extent, the 1848 Revolutions were unique – at least in European history. Neither the French Revolution of 1789, nor the July Revolution of 1830, nor the Paris Commune of 1870, nor the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 sparked a comparable transcontinental cascade. While 1989 looks like a better comparator, there is still...

Rome, Vienna, 1848

Christopher Clark, 10 May 2018

On the evening​ of 24 November 1848, Pope Pius IX fled from the city of Rome. At 5 p.m., he took off his Moroccan silk slippers with crosses embroidered on their uppers, put aside the red velvet papal cap and dressed himself in the black cassock and broad-brimmed hat of a country priest. Half an hour later, in a state of great agitation, he left the papal audience chamber in the Quirinale...

Wilhelm II

Christopher Clark, 22 April 2015

In January 1904, King Leopold II of Belgium was invited to Berlin to attend a birthday dinner for Kaiser Wilhelm II. The two monarchs were seated next to each other and everything was going nicely until the Kaiser suddenly brought up the question of a possible future French attack on Germany. In the event of a war between Germany and France, Wilhelm explained, he would expect the Belgians to side with Germany. So long as they agreed, he would see to it personally that Belgium was rewarded after the conclusion of hostilities with territories annexed from northern France.

Rewriting Hungary’s Past

Nora Berend and Christopher Clark, 20 November 2014

This summer​, a new monument appeared in Budapest’s Liberty Square. Amid a copse of truncated white marble pillars stands the metal figure of a slender young man. Wrapped from hips to feet in windswept drapery, he opens his arms to the sky. In his right hand he bears the orb of political authority surmounted by the Hungarian double-barred cross. Wings sprout from his shoulder blades....

July, 1914

Christopher Clark, 29 August 2013

The European continent was at peace on the morning of Sunday, 28 June 1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Austrian heir to the throne, and his wife, Sophie Chotek, arrived at Sarajevo railway station. Thirty-seven days later, it was at war. In its complexity and the speed with which it escalated, the ‘July Crisis’ of 1914 is without parallel in world history. Franz Ferdinand...

Himmler

Christopher Clark, 11 October 2012

The ascent (if that’s the right word) of Heinrich Himmler to become the chief architect of Nazi genocide is one of the strangest strands of the regime’s story. There have been several studies of this enigmatic man, but Peter Longerich’s massive biography, grounded in exhaustive study of the primary sources, is now the standard work and must stand alongside Ian...

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 parliament refused to approve the necessary funds. At issue was the question of who had the right to determine the army’s character. The liberal view was that the parliament’s...

The Tsar, the Kaiser and the King

Christopher Clark, 22 October 2009

On 30 July 1914, it suddenly dawned on Kaiser Wilhelm II that Germany was on the threshold of a war with three great powers. Panicking, he grabbed a recently arrived dispatch from St Petersburg and committed his agonised thoughts to paper in a frenzy of marginal scribbles. England was the author of Germany’s predicament, he scrawled. Over the years, it had gradually tightened a net of...

Nazi Toffs

Christopher Clark, 9 April 2009

As the American scholar Jonathan Petropoulos observed in his study of the princes of Hessen, if princes had constituted a profession, ‘they would have rivalled physicians as the most Nazified in the Third Reich (doctors’ membership peaked in 1937 at 43 per cent)’.

Letter

Who started it?

29 August 2013

Christopher Clark writes: I thank Norman Frink for his insightful and generous comments about the review and about my book The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. But I don’t accept that there is anything ‘sly’ about my handling of the evidence for German war guilt. The book engages the case for German war guilt head-on, proposing in place of the primary culprit model...

Brandenburg-Prussian Power

Abigail Green, 19 March 2020

Some saw the collapse of the German Empire as a decisive and traumatic break in the historical continuity of the state. Nothing, in Christopher Clark’s view, more profoundly exemplified this revolt...

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Wrong Turn in Sarajevo

Thomas Laqueur, 5 December 2013

The weakness and unreliability of the alliances, and the lack of certainty about who would be on whose side, exacerbated the crisis of summer 1914.

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Prussia

David Blackbourn, 16 November 2006

Too much history can be bad for you. ‘The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living’ – that was Marx’s famous comment on...

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