From the first page of the book, Taylor emphasizes the historical setting of Bismarck’s life. He shows the significance of 1815, the year of Bismarck’s birth and of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. Schönhausen, the town near the Elbe River where Bismarck was born, was also an important factor in his career. Although this biography was not written for young adult readers, it does teach the importance of history in shaping the destinies of individuals and of countries.
Bismarck presents many valuable lessons to young readers, both positive and negative. In discussing Bismarck’s personal life, Taylor does not omit the negative influence of his subject’s personal habits; young readers learn of the effects of not following sound religious, moral, and ethical principles, as well as the results of alcohol and tobacco use and of excessive eating. Another negative lesson can be inferred from Bismarck’s contempt and arrogance toward his associates. Bismarck is portrayed as a person who carried the idea of self-esteem to the point of self-conceit.
The book’s positive lessons for young readers include Bismarck’s ability to show moderation in victory. He would never take advantage of a situation, not even a war, to obtain more than was necessary to meet his immediate needs. Very few statesmen have been able to exercise such restraint. Taylor states Bismarck’s belief that there are times for a leader to apply the spur and times...
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