Historian Balfour believes that ""an individual can only be understood in the light of his surroundings."" He devotes the first part of this book to a swift history of Germany from antiquity to the Kaiser's birth and, throughout the biographical portion, he pays close attention to the national and international effects of Wilhelm II's unrestrainable meddlings in domestic and foreign affairs. This is in contrast to Virginia Cowles' The Kaiser (1963, p. 1174) which focused directly on the man. The Cowles biography has captured the wide general audience and it deserves to. However, the current reading interest in WWI seems to leave room room for two good biographies and this is very well written. Mr. Balfour is the more serious student of the subject but has borns in mind the Kaiser's own request to the head of his military Secretariat -- ""Not dry reports only, please, but now and then a funny story."" The circumstances that allowed to Kaiser to live as if ""The greater part of his life... was illusion"" would make comic reading if the results had not been so tragic. (""Once in the middle of a complaint that he was always misunderstood...he contrived to let a toar fall on his cigar."") A running critique on the reliability of various sources is a bonus to students of the period, as is the biographical index.