According to Fischer-Fabian, Prussia has been misunderstood: its image of arrogance, servility, pedantry, and other vices stems from the period of William II in the 19th century, by which time Prussia had been ""swallowed up"" by the German Empire. Before that, we're told, Prussia was a land of obedience, love of order, and self-confidence; and Fischer-Fabian aims to show how these virtues developed from the first king of Prussia, Frederick I, through his son, Frederick William, to the glory days of Frederick II (the ""Great"")--and simultaneously to demonstrate the unpremeditated way Prussia entered the 19th century, thereby absolving it of any blame for what came after. What we get, in reality, is the worst kind of shallow, palace-centered fairy tale. Frederick I, depicted as the vain half-fool that he no doubt was, is posed by Fischer-Fabian in front of mirrors and at table in his new palace, enjoying his new status of king--Prussia having been endowed with a kingship because, in this version, Frederick was miffed at having second-class status among kings when he was only the Elector of Brandenburg. Frederick William, in turn, was fascinated with the army: the tightly-drilled Prussian corps that he founded but did not use. Fischer-Fabian dwells on the copious taxes that the army necessitated, as well as the king's fondness for tall soldiers. It was Frederick II who used this military tool, though this would-be aesthete--we hear--more or less fell into the series of wars that consolidated and expanded Prussian power in central Europe. The only actors in the story are kings, emperors, and their distaff doubles; and typical of the drivel Fisher-Fabian writes about them is the conclusion to a passage on the Second Silesian war: ""At its end, doubled up with gout, prematurely aged, and wasted, stood a man named Frederick."" The common image of Prussia won't be amended by such as this.