Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chancellor Otto Von Bismark's Voice

My primary field of historical interest these days is diplomatic history and one of the most important figures in this field is the former first chancellor of Germany Otto Von Bismark (1815-1898). Bismark is known and remembered for many things among them the unification of the German states into one country (1871), his Realpolitik approach to foreign policy, and his vigorous efforts towards maintaining a strong "balance of power" system in Europe. And like many realists before and after (Note: Henry Kissinger often cited Bismark as an influence on his thought) Bismark tends to be a divisive figure among intellectuals of every stripe since it can be reasonably argued that Bismark's policies were the beginnings of a slippery slope to WWI, chiefly because his unification of the German states created another strong power in Europe that would eventually foment hostility on the Continent; likewise because of the many secret pacts Bismark created which are additionally often cited as a cause of WWI.

Nevertheless, Bismark was a remarkable statesmen, worthy of continued study today and it was with great surprise that the world learned of a long lost recording of his voice found hidden away in a Thomas Edison archive in New Jersey. Apparently, it was recorded in 1889 and features Bismark reciting some words from an American song of some kind, a poem in Latin, and then some German literature. The quality is of course poor but there's still something awe-inspiring about hearing the actual voice of such an important historical figure as this. Anyways, here's the clip (via, via Open Salon):

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