John Kampfner

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Why the Germans Do It Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country

book | 2020


Emerging from a collection of city states 150 years ago, no other country has had as turbulent a history as Germany or enjoyed so much prosperity in such a short time frame. Today, as much of the world succumbs to authoritarianism and democracy is undermined from its heart, Germany stands as a bulwark for decency and stability.

Mixing personal journey and anecdote with compelling empirical evidence, this is a critical and entertaining exploration of the country many in the West still love to hate. Raising important questions for our post-Brexit landscape, Kampfner asks why, despite its faults, Germany has become a model for others to emulate, while Britain fails to tackle contemporary challenges. Part memoir, part history, part travelogue, Why the Germans Do It Better is a rich and witty portrait of an eternally fascinating country.


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Claire Nozieres manages the translation rights for Why the Germans Do It Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country

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Botart Publishing House
Chinese Simple
Mainland China
Zhejiang People’s Publishing House
Rowohlt Verlag
Garzanti Editore
Open Books Co.
Biblio Co, Ltd

Excellent and provocative… a passionate, timely book.

Sunday Times

Highly readable and well-informed... [Kampfner] mixes historical sweep with vivid reporting to celebrate Germany's strengths and achievements.

Financial Times

A rich guide to modern Germany... For the British readers this book is directed at, the implied contrasts are startling. German conservatism produced Angela Merkel, easily the most respected democratic leader in the world, while the English variety produced Boris Johnson.


A fine new book… thoughtful, deeply reported and impeccably even-handed.

The Times

Authoritative, timely and courageous, this is a compellingly readable book that raises profoundly important questions on history, our times and the future.

Philippe Sands, bestselling author of East West Street and The Ratline

A revelation of a book... with insights based on painstaking research and evidence gleaned from months crisscrossing the country... Kampfner's analysis is simply peerless.

Literary Review

Passionate yet carefully argued, Why The Germans Do It Better is a must-read.

James Hawes, author of The Shortest History of Germany

A well-argued case for learning from our German cousins.


A nuanced but compelling account... Kampfner marshals a convincing argument that other countries would be foolish to ignore Germany's emotional maturity and solidity.

New Statesman

A lively, affectionate portrait... A paeon to Germany.

Irish Times

Smart, provocative and entertaining, this is a timely and enthralling love letter to our much misunderstood near neighbour.

Kay Burley

We need a great book on Germany as the Merkel era ends: this is that book. It confronts the country's history, and charts with authority and affection its modern course with lessons for us all.

Lyse Doucet, BBC Chief International Correspondent

One of Britain's most distinguished political writers.

Mail on Sunday

Kampfner's admiration of what post-war Germany has achieved doesn't blind him to her imperfections. Why the Germans Do It Better abounds with sharp analysis and telling anecdotes. A lively, very readable introduction to a country we ought to understand a lot better than we do.

David Lidington

Kampfner roams widely in Germany and has a reporter's ear for the telling anecdote. He knows his history too.

Lionel Barber, The Spectator

A forensic and highly readable account of Germany's ability to get things right. Kampfner's clear and unanswerable argument should be compulsory reading for every politician, civil servant and commentator in Britain

John Simpson

There is plenty of good material here and the timing is impeccable.


Germany's success in tackling the great pandemic of 2020 has surprised many. John Kampfner shows why it should not have done so. This is a compelling account of how, in two generations, a country adopted the principles of liberal democracy, then mastered them, and now has more to teach us than we might wish to admit

Baroness Catherine Ashton, former EU High Representative and former Leader of the House of Lords

A fascinating, affectionate and deeply researched portrait of Germany in the modern era -- Kampfner vividly brings Germany's turbulent history to life, and explains its profound influence on Europe today. Why The Germans Do It Better is essential for all who want to understand what Britain should do post-Brexit.

Sir Anthony Seldon, author of May at 10

Karolina Sutton
+44 (0)20 7393 4428
Email Karolina Sutton