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Berlin (edition 2000)
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 046502632X, Paperback)Founded in the 13th century as a trading post on a windswept Prussian plain, Berlin was something of an accidental capital. It was selected by Chancellor Bismarck after Germany's unification in 1871, in part because the choice of any other city--Munich, say, or Frankfurt--would have provoked terrible regional rivalries. As it was, the rest of Germany simply looked down on the hinterland Berliners as, in historian David Clay Large's words, "parvenus whose civilization was hardly more substantial than the Prussian sands on which their town was built."
The people who soon swarmed to Berlin from all over Germany--and elsewhere in Europe--put their scorn for the city aside, and they turned it, writes Large, "into a hothouse of modernity, a place that pursued change like a drug." That change becomes a dominant theme as Large charts the rapid growth of Berlin in the early 1900s from regional backwater to a leading European center of socialist politics and the arts. Berlin's avant-garde culture and freewheeling atmosphere made it a target of the Nazi leadership, which put in motion grandiose schemes of social and civil engineering intended to remake it into an imperial city the likes of which the world had never known. Devastated, instead, by World War II and divided by the victorious Allies for four decades afterward, Berlin was, until recently, gray and unattractive compared with many other German cities--and, writes Large, that suited many Germans who "harbored the conviction that Berlin, the former Nazi capital, had no business being pretty or glamorous."
In Berlin, David Large brings the city's recent past to life. Though lacking the literary flair that makes Alexandra Richie's wider-ranging history of Berlin, Faust's Metropolis, so readable, it stands as a substantial contribution to the historical literature. --Gregory McNamee
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:11 -0400)
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