Giles MacDonogh, Frederick the Great (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1999).
Frederick the Great has always puzzled posterity. "We hardly know any instance of the strength and weakness of human nature so striking and so grotesque", Macaulay famously wrote of him, "as the character of this haughty, vigilant, resolute, sagacious blue-stocking, half Mithridates and half Trissotin, bearing up against a world in arms, with an ounce of poison in one pocket and a quire of bad verses in another." Giles MacDonogh points out in this latest biography how each generation has formed a different image of Frederick, all equally false. For nineteenth-century Germany he was the great Founder of their Nation--in spite of the fact that he hardly spoke a word of German, thought that German singers sounded like "the neighing of a horse", and regarded his own subjects as "nasty animals" who had to be ruled in their best interests by an enlightened elite. For Germany's enemies, he was the creator of the "Prussian militarism" that was to disturb the peace of Europe for two hundred years. For military buffs he is one of the "Great Captains" of history, whose campaigns should be studied to find the philosopher's stone of military success; while for some he was the archetypal Hero sketched by Carlyle, a Nietzschean Superman grimly battling against impossible odds, whose picture hung on the wall of the Führerbunker in Berlin and whose example was to inspire Adolf Hitler in the last days of the Third Reich.