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Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War [Kindle Edition]

Robert K. Massie
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From colonial disputes, secret treaties with former foes, high-wire diplomacy, and tit-for-tat building of the terrifyingly powerful dreadnought battleships. DREADNOUGHT is a dramatic re-creation of the diplomatic and military brinkmanship that preceded, and made inevitable, the outbreak of the first world war.

Massie brings to vivid life such historical figures as the single-minded Admiral von Tirpitz, the young, ambitious, Winston Churchill, the ruthless, sycophantic Chancellor Bernhard von Bulow, and many others. The relationship between Queen Victoria and Kaiser Wilhelm is particularly intriguing. Wilhelm's admiration, and even envy, for everything British, was to play an important part in the events to come. Their story, and the story of the era, filled with misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and events leading to unintended conclusions, unfolds like a Greek tragedy in his powerful narrative. Intimately human and dramatic, DREADNOUGHT is history at its most riveting.

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Product Description


He has the supreme gift of making history live in simple, readable language. -- Observer

About the Author

Robert Massie is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, Dreadnought, Castles of Steel and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4161 KB
  • Print Length: 1040 pages
  • Publisher: Head of Zeus (1 Sept. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00D5FOGL6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #52,403 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The slow march to the Great War 31 Jan. 2002
By A Customer
Robert K. Massie clearly loves his subject, and this book is an enthusiastically-written history of the personalities, and technology, behind the steady drift of Europe to World War 1. The style is such that reading the book is like encountering a clubbable historian in your local pub. Some people may not like this method of writing, but I found it a refreshing change, and I enjoyed the anecdotes about some of the personalities, like Lord Salisbury entertaining a lunatic unawares, in his personal railway compartment. For a non-specialist but interested reader, like me, this book was an excellent read.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Meticulous Piece of Research 9 Oct. 2006
An initial glance at this may give the impression that it is simply about the development of the Dreadnought class of battleship and the arms race that followed their creation. This is an important issue in itself, but Massie covers much more. He provides the reader with a detailed account of relations between the great powers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and of much of the stubborness, short-sightedness and bumbling that almost accidentally led to the First World War. The book provides superb mini-biographies of key players, the Kaiser, Bismark, Asquith, the earlier years of WS Churchill and many others. For people studying international relations in that period, this is an excellent source of reference, even for those who are not specifically interested in the naval matters alone.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but too repetitious 3 May 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a very good narrative of the relationship between Britain and Germany in the run up to the First World War, tracing events back a whole century to the post-Napoleonic War Congress of Vienna and the marriage of Victoria and Albert. The arms race of the construction of the titular dreadnoughts forms only a relatively small portion of the narrative. The concluding two chapters "Road to Armageddon" in Berlin and then in London detail extensively and sombrely the final negotiations, misunderstandings and bravado statements and actions of the final days and weeks leading up to the outbreak of the war.

Robert Massie is an excellent writer of narrative history. However, the book is flawed in that it is simply too long and there is too much repetition and coverage of the same ground in different parts of the book. The lengthy biographical portraits, covering the lives of all the main protagonists, are both a strength and a weakness: they are often fascinating and entertaining, but are often too lengthy and stray too far from the main thrust of the narrative for too long. Much of this detail might usefully have been included in an appendix.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book, Wrong Title 30 Mar. 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a very peculiar book, and I'd liked to have given it three-and-a-half stars. The first thing to mention is that it isn't really about Dreadnoughts, so the title is bizarre. Yes, big battleships play a part in the story, but so do a lot of other things. Without wishing to give too much away, by the end of the book no dreadnought has so much as fired a gun or met the enemy. Yes, it's also about the build-up to WWI but it starts so far back that he even covers Nelson! The worst part about it is that lots and lots of European political figures and their mini biographies are featured, going back many decades before the war. They come, they go and they're forgotten, and it just seems that he's trying to do too much even in a long book.

At times it's good, at others I found myself skimming though pages. I didn't think it really took off till after half way through. By the time war really looms and the British, realising how terrible and devastating a modern war between the major powers would be, desperately tried to get Germany to negotiate, it gets almost like a thriller and very tense - even though we know the outcome. l was really finding it unputdownable by this point and as my Kindle said I was at 75% I was looking forward to lots more reading. But I was at the end!

The book finishes the moment war is declared, and before a single dreadnought leaves home waters! It almost felt as if someone had cut several chapters off the end, and I felt very frustrated and let down.

On a pedantic note, I agree with others that he doesn't seem to understand the difference between England and Britain. A lot of people don't, but if you were writing a book on such a subject you'd think he would make it his job to get it right.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars German War Guilt 26 Feb. 2014
As one would expect from a writer of the calibre of Robert Massie, this thousand page tome seems all too short. The extraordinary personalities involved in to this slide into catastrophe are brilliantly delineated, the events graphically and intelligibly set out, and the finger of guilt points inexorably at Germany. Betraying their Bismarkian legacy which all costs wanted to avoid a war on two fronts, led by a psychologically damaged Kaiser, egged on by a an over -confident and aggressive military and naval officer corps, Germany played a brash and reckless game with the other powers in the two decades before the war broke out.

Given the centenary this year of the outbreak of the First World War, this is an excellent and elegant way to begin to understand the rivalries and follies that led inexorably to war. The Kaiser is particular comes over as an absurd , petulant, and inadequate leader with far too much power. He almost invariably put his foot in it, and the greatest mess of all led to the death of millions. Enunciating views towards the Jews and to world conquest reminiscent of Hitler, Wilhelm II should have been tried for war crimes.

Appallingly the Armistice proved to be just that, a crazy interlude, before the war for world domination recommenced in 1939, again motivated by German militarism and indifference to human suffering.

Fortunately for those who have surfed through a thousand pages of prelude to war, Massie has written an equally long sequel on the course of the Great war.
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