The Leader pp 179-229 | Cite as

Mirror Image of the Nation

An Investigation of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Leadership of the Germans
  • Thomas A. Kohut


In recent years Kaiser Wilhelm II has been the subject of renewed historical interest. For decades, however, historians have ignored the Kaiser while focusing considerable attention on the period of German history that bears his name. The striking, if lamentable, reality that not one full-scale scholarly biography of Wilhelm II has yet been published3 testifies to the fact that until now historians have chosen to investigate Wilhelmine Germany while minimizing the significance of Wilhelm II. At the same time, a spate of popular biographies of the Kaiser have been written by more or less amateur historians.4 The general public, it seems, remains curious about the Kaiser. This combination of popular interest and scholarly neglect corresponds to the mixture of adulation and irritation with which Wilhelm was viewed by his contemporaries. He seemed at once a fascinating, mythical figure of heroic proportions and an inconsequential and pathetic posturer. It is the thesis of this study that both images of the Kaiser reflect the reality of Wilhelm II’s leadership of the Germans, a leadership that was dynamic and compelling yet weak and ineffectual.


Public Opinion German Nation German People Emotional Message Absolute Sovereignty 
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  • Thomas A. Kohut

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