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Dreadnought: Britain,Germany and the Coming of the Great War Paperback – 13 Dec 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 1040 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (13 Dec 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099524023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099524021
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"History at its best, a fantastic mix of anecdote, observation and intelligent thinking" (Dan Snow Daily Express)

"Massie tells the story with controlled energy and attention to detail, especially human detail. It has not been told so well before." (Literary Review)

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

"Inheritor of Barbara Tuchman's mantle as the English-speaking world's pre-eminent popular historian...Robert K. Massie has now turned his attention to the arms race between Britain and Germany c.1890-1914, the most important precipitant towards the outbreak of the First World War." (Frank McLynn)

"This is a book you are bound to enjoy. The set pieces - the naval review of June 1897, the Jameson Raid, The Kaiser's visit to Windsor, Winston Churchill visiting the fleet, "the spring of the panther" - are dramatically recreated. The pen portraits of the political and naval establishments of Wilhelmine Germany and Victorian and Edwardian Britain are brilliantly evoked with a sharp eye for the memorable detail...Massie keeps his complex story under tight control...Monographers like myself can only envy the sheer sweep of Dreadnought and the author's rich palette of colours so deftly applied. Like Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August this is narrative history at its very best. Financial Times" (Financial Times)

About the Author

Robert K. Massie is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, Dreadnought and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter. He lives in Irvington, New York

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Forlornehope on 12 Dec 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The title does not do justice to the work. This is a very comprehensive account of British-German relations from the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria to the outbreak of the Great War. As the book reaches the beginning of the twentieth century the author deals with the different themes and events separately which means that he is moving backwards and forwards through their respective timelines. His brief biographies of the principal characters, often starting in childhood, take us back again and again into the past before hurrying forward to the "contemporary" events.

He does bring out some little known gems about the individuals; I had never heard that Winston Churchill had been recommended for the VC (it was blocked by Kitchener on personal or political grounds). However he does repeat a few canards. His description of the press gang system in the Royal Navy repeats the myth of drunks and tramps bludgoned into the service. Prof. Nicholas Rodger has comprehensively dealt with this in several monumental works on the subject. He also falls for the "there's something wrong with our bloody ships" trap; there was nothing wrong with the ships it was ill-discipline among the officers who opened up the fire traps to speed handling of the ammunition; the German battle cruisers Seydlitz and Derflinger took enormous punishment and remained afloat. And on a minor point, he translates Holstein's position as First Counselor whereas the more literal, and suitably sinister, translation would be secret counselor!

Overall, a massive piece of work with lessons which are still relevant and will be as long as great powers face each other with great arsenals.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Andy b on 15 Nov 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
A very long but fascinating review of the build up to world war one, with as the title implies a major slant on the naval side. You could look on this as including a series of biopics of all the main British and German leaders - Bismarck, Kaiser, Churchill, Fischer .....
Excellently researched, I like the way he would alternate between the perspective of the 2 sides. The author knows his stuff and clearly loves his subject. I'm reading the follow up, castles of steel and it's just as good. Thought I knew my stuff on ww 1, but I didn't!
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 Jan 2002
Format: Paperback
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 By Mr. R. Williams on 9 Oct 2006
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dreadnought is a major work looking at the run-up leading inevitably to World War I. Although the title of the book might lead a potential buyer to believe that the main emphasis was on the Royal Navy, in fact that forms quite a small part of the book as a whole, albeit an important part. The meat of the book is in the politics and political figures from the accession of Queen Victoria to the British throne to the advent of war. It brings the various characters to life, and taught me much that I did not know about nineteenth and early-twentieth century politics. I would advise having a good reference book to hand, or a computer with Wikipedia running, to check and enlarge on various points, and to refresh the memory from time to time (there are a LOT of characters discussed here!).
Based on my limited knowledge I found the book to be essentially accurate, and most of Robert Massie's opinions are in line with generally accepted history. The book is not an easy read; it took me several weeks, on and off, but it is well enough written to hold the interest even over an extended period. I have now just started the sequel, Castles of Steel, which looks to be much more about the Navy itself.
Mr Massie is a distinguished historian, with several books about the Russian Czars, and if this is typical, I can strongly recommend his work.
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I was drawn to this book by the title, I have always liked the name Dreadnought but knew little about the ships themselves. What I expected was just the story of those ships, what I received was a detailed history of Europe from Nelsons victory at Trafalgar to the outbreak of WW1. If like me you could just about remember some archduke getting shot then buy this book. I was both amazed and ashamed at just how ignorant I was. The author has included mini biographies of the main protagonists so you can get some idea of how they thought and why they reacted the way they did. On some subjects the tale is told from the English perspective and then later told again from the German or whichever countries are involved, so you get to see the reasoning behind each sides responses to the other.
The main battle between the dreadnoughts didn't happen until 1916 so I can see the reasoning behind stopping at the outbreak of the war. The fact that it does was the only disappointment I have with the book. I still give it five stars and recommend it to anyone who has an interest in European history or the First World war
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