For King and Kaiser! The Making of the Prussian Army Officer, 1860-1914.
Clemente's account is based exclusively on printed sources, ranging from military handbooks of the imperial era to recent publications by historians and political scientists in the German and English-speaking world. On some aspects, notably the curricula of various civilian and military schools, he offers comments which are both readable and well-balanced. On many other topics, Clemente's failure to consult archival material seriously limits the usefulness of his work. For example, he depends too much on the published memoirs of certain German officers - Ludendorff, Groener, Manstein, Guderian, and others - when more candid judgements on the procedures and institutions of the Prussian army could have been found in the unpublished reminiscences, diaries, and letters of many individuals who came through the system before 1914. (See, for instance, Colonel-General Wilhelm Heye's bitter comments about life in the Prussian cadet corps in his Nachlass at the Freiburg military archive).
A more serious defect has to do with Clemente's uncritical acceptance of the "traditional" notion that commoners, except for these being themselves the sons of officers, had more difficulty than "aristocrats" in getting a commission in the Prussian army and/or rising to high position. His claim (based on dated sources) that aristocrats predominated in the Prussian general staff throughout the imperial era is very much open to challenge, for it ignores the simple fact that a large number of officers with a noble predicate in their name were actually commoners by birth and upbringing; that is, they had been elevated to noble status at some point in their military career. Equally misleading is the assertion that the Prussian War Academy, that gateway to staff appointments and accelerated promotions, was always headed by an aristocrat. In actual fact, five of the twelve generals heading that institution between 1871 and 1914 were of "bourgeois" background, namely August (von) Etzel, Karl Rudolf (von) Ollech, Karl (von) Villaume, Karl Litzmann, and Erich (von) Gundell. There is no space to record further examples where fresh research might have allowed Clemente to offer more convincing statistical assessments.
As for Clemente's conclusions, they generally follow the interpretations perviously offered by Karl Demeter, Martin Kitchen, and Hans-Ulrich Wehler (the latter being cited in the backnotes but, for reasons unknown, omitted from the "Select Bibliography"). A more original approach to the topic would have been welcome.
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|Publication:||Canadian Journal of History|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 1993|
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