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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars German War Guilt
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...
Published 14 months ago by Samuel Romilly

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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A glorious waste
A huge but amazingly readable account of the political manoeuvrings between Great Britain and Germany in the years leading up to WW1.
There is much to recommend this book. It is brilliantly written and sustains the reader's attention through every one of its 900 or so pages. The portraits of the various characters are masterful and unforgettable, as are the...
Published on 31 May 2005 by Brian Whitby


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars German War Guilt, 26 Feb. 2014
By 
Samuel Romilly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the long read, 2 April 2015
By 
AC (Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War (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. As it is whole chapters are devoted to particular individuals - starting with their parents, grandparents etc., and therefore discussing many decades of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It felt as though we kept jumping back and forth in time. So, later in the unfolding story, I found it difficult to remember who was doing what at any point in time. Perhaps to understand it all properly one should draw up a big chart showing all the key players and what their role was at different times, so that at any point in time one could see at a glance who was who.

This is a book I will keep. Even though I read the Kindle edition free of charge I will almost certainly buy the book itself as it's something I would like to have on my shelf to dip into or read in its entirety again in the future.
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book, Wrong Title, 30 Mar. 2015
By 
Martynrb (Nottingham, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War (Kindle Edition)
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.

And even more pedantically, he seems to think that Nelson's navy was characterised by three-deckers like the Victory, since he refers to them at least twice as if most of the battle fleets of the day consisted of them. The didn't. Three-deckers were relatively rare, and by far the majority of line-of-battle ships were two-deck seventy-four gun ships.

And yet...the good sections are very, very good and it's very well written. In fact it's a memorable read - the sort that lingers in the mind after you've finished, hence the four stars. I'd recommend it - but don't feel guilty about skipping over large chunks to get to the good bits!
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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
By 
Mr. R. Williams (Twickenham, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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
By 
John Hopper (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War (Kindle Edition)
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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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, informative and completely absorbing., 21 Mar. 2001
I am not usually quick to dive into huge volumes of political discussion, and came at this from the direction of naval history. Daunted initially by the book's size, I was quickly absorbed into one of the most fascinating accounts of World affairs I have yet encountered. It is studded with luminous pen-portraits of the personalities involved, and carries the reader briskly along with clear, rational exposition of momentous events and of smaller, often highly illuminating anecdotes. The book is not a great source with regard to naval architecture and engineering, but the student of those aspects must surely read this book in order properly to understand the context in which such huge technical advances were made in a mere 50 or 60 years. I cannot think how this account can be bettered, and cannot recommend it highly enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intense,comprehensive my first real political read., 7 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War (Kindle Edition)
I repeat the above .i have always had an interest in the Great War ,reading my fathers 6 volumes of "A Popular History of the Great War" Edited by Sir J.A Hammerton and published in London byThe Fleetway House and printed by The Amalgamated Press Ltd. Of London in my early teens over 55 years ago.There is no date of edition etc.
Robert K massie's book presents much of the intrigue and an insight into the political goings on that are meticulous in their.detail and recounting while exuding an 'aroma' of truth in portraying and relating so many complex characters and facts that cover both the British side as well as the other nationalities involved with impartiality and bring to life so many of the people who lived and influenced the events of the period. AA Scotland.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, 11 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War (Kindle Edition)
A fascinating and exceptionally clear account. An in-depth analysis of the social and political scenes, and the roles of the monarchies in Britain and Germany in the build up to the war. One gains a broad view of the way politics operated at the time, and how the various interested bodies exerted influence over the unfolding events. I found it extraordinary how much influence just a handful of individuals had in both countries, and how the populations were, in essence, manipulated by those in power ( plus ca change).
Very well written, accessible and comprehensive. Hugely enjoyable. Excellent.
(I am not an historian or academic, just an interested reader; I simply found this the best text I've read on an historical topic)
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating political history, 8 April 1999
By A Customer
'Dreadnought' is a superb companion to any technical history of battleship development: it provides the essential political and even personal backdrop to the development and construction of these mighty ships.
Massie touches lightly on specifics of armour and armament and propulsion, concentrating his formidable talents on the political and personal histories surrounding the Anglo-German naval arms race of the late 19th century and the events that led to World War 1.
Massie brings the personalities to life, describing their backgrounds and showing how they reacted to and helped to shape the events of their time. With the men of the time so described, he explores how confusion, mutual distrust, antagonism, personal ambition and national pride dragged Europe into the morass of the First World War. He captures chillingly the popular and, in some cases, private enthusiasm for conflict.
I found this book to be both enlightening and entertaining, and highly recommend it.
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