Although Virginia Cowles' The Kaiser is more popular biography and an excellent one, Mr. Balfour is the more serious student of the background and the international affairs that led to WWI. He believes that there can be no understanding of an individual except in relation to his history and environment. He provides a wift reading of Germany from pre-history forward to the birth of William II. He has borne in mind the Kaiser's request to his head of the Military Secretariat -- ""Not just dry reports please but now and then a funny story."" He has made of his biography a partial social history of Germany and England with special attention to the politics of the period. There is a running critique on the reliability of various sources which is of special value to students, as is the biographical index.