by Dan Bloom, producer
On a Hawaiian vacation, a fellow traveler asked author David Wetzel why he studied history. His response also took the form of a question: “Why do you breathe air?” For Wetzel, historical perspective is essential to understanding one’s present time, and failing to grasp this knowledge is akin to attempting to understand a novel after opening the book halfway through.
Wetzel’s most recent books cover the conflict between two of Europe’s great powers, France and Prussia, the precursor to modern-day Germany. The key figure in this struggle was was Otto von Bismarck, a legendary statesman who battled not only his external French foes, but fellow Prussian leaders who would stop and nothing in order to wipe France off the map. Bismarck knew that such an overreach would lead to foreign intervention and potential disaster for Prussia, and his ideological triumph led to a Prussian victory and the eventual unification of Germany.
Wetzel believes that most modern statesmen fail to live up to Bismarck’s standards and explores his diplomatic acumen in his books, ‘A Duel of Giants’ and ‘A Duel of Nations,’ both published by University of Wisconsin Press.
In addition to writing, David Wetzel is a highly regarded professor in the history department at the University of California Berkeley, and his lectures are podcast through iTunes University.
To find his recordings, do a serach in iTunes for “David Wetzel.” Here is a link to hist most recent semester’s recordings.