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Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War Paperback – 1 Jan 2004

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Paperback, 1 Jan 2004

Product details

  • Paperback: 1040 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico (1 Jan. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844135284
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844135288
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 4.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,252,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Romilly on 26 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By AC on 2 April 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
I started reading this after a friend recommended it and I found I could borrow it free on the Kindle lending library. If he hadn't recommended it so highly I would probably have given up very quickly, as it's a very long book and some of the early chapters I found hard going and not very interesting. This was especially true of the first chapter, which went through details of the royal family through several generations in so much detail that there was no hope I'd ever remember who they all were or how they were related to one another.

However, I'm glad I didn't give up, because it was an amazing read overall and a book I won't forget for a long time. The great thing about this book is that although it starts off seeming hard work and confusing, it just gets better and better as it goes on. The key characters come increasingly to life - the flawed William II and Winston Churchill in his early years to mention only two of many. I was fascinated by the way that political relationships between countries could be so influenced by minor personal matters between members of their royal families.

In the last third of the book, one felt that WW1 was looming and the story became more compelling the further it went on, until the last few chapters were like the reading a fiction thriller. Just as the first chapter was probably the most boring for me, I found the last few chapters incredibly exciting in a dreadful way, as Europe slid inexorably into a war that no-one seemed really to want. If you're reading the Kindle edition, be aware that the end of the book is at about 75% - the rest is photos, notes, references and the index.

For me this book would have earned five stars if the story had been told in a more chronological way.
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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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By Martynrb on 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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