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Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea Hardcover – 1 Oct 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 1 Oct 2003
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (Oct. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679456716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679456711
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 5.3 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,746,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Gripping stuff" (Charles Osbourne, Sunday Telegraph) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

Castles of Steel - by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Dreadnought -'is decidedly a battleship book: stately, immense and telling a mighty story mightily.' Jan Morris, New Statesman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an exhaustive study - it is also an exhausting one. But bear with the near 800 pages, because you will be richly rewarded and put down the book afterwards with the feeling that you yourself were involved in this chapter of the First World War. In itself, this is a true measure of a first rate writer's skill; Robert Massie again shows he is unquestionably that. He provides some astonishing revelations regarding the workings of the British and German Admiralties and very interesting explanations about the U-boat threat; how the `moving square' for convoys defrayed that threat; the real reason Americans joined the war (very late) and why the German naval forces came so close to mutiny in the closing months of 1918. Key dramatis personae such a Fisher, Beatty, Jellicoe, Hipper, Scheer and Ludendorff are less fully drawn than those Massie so comprehensively describes in his Dreadnought, which is perhaps a shame. However, one does get a workable indication of the personalities - Lloyd-George comes out as a petulant, unpleasant, `Welsh Windbag' of a man and Beatty seems a duplicitous fair weather friend. But Jellicoe is undoubtedly the true and modest hero whose grasp and retention, against all arguments, of the Grand Strategy is the true measure of the man who won the war at sea. That he was so shabbily treated at the closing stages does some of his colleagues plus British government generally, and Lloyd-George in particular, no credit whatsoever.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Having read Robert Massie's earlier book Dreadnought, which I enjoyed so much I read it twice, I waited impatiently for this promised sequel, and I was not disappointed. Some books you hope will never end and this is one of them. There is not a dull page in the book. Massie brings characters alive with amusing anecdotes. You have probably read other accounts of the WW1 sea battles but they are dry by comparison. His cannot be equalled for well-paced storytelling, scholarly research and balanced judgments. He uses official and unofficial publications and diaries from both the British and German sides to describe the dilemmas the opposing commanders and politicians faced and why they acted as they did, situating each battle in its strategic context. I cannot recommend this book too highly.
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Format: Paperback
A magnificent book that should be read inconjunction with Dreadnought (the prequel to this tome).

Personally I preferred this book over Dreadnought as this focuses more on the personalities, 'action' and battles of the World War I rather than the politics that comprise the majority of Dreadnought, I thought this was the slightly easier read of the two. Reading some other reviews it seems that the preference between the books depends on which one you read first.

Overall a highly recommended read.

The best book on the subject by a (nautical) mile.
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By A Customer on 27 Dec. 2003
Format: Hardcover
A marvellous evocation of the Great War at sea. Mr. Massie paints a breathtakingly broad canvas, filled with many characters with all their strengths and weaknesses, quirks and foibles. (He is unashamedly a fan of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, the engineer of the victory at sea of the First World War who was as shabbily treated as was Air Vice-Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the winner of the Battle of Britain in the Second. Funny people, the British.) He also captures technicalities, tactics, places, events with prose that never drops below readable and which is at times as exciting as any novel. A must-read for anyone interested in the history of the 20th century and a worthy follow-on from Mr. Massie's excellent "Dreadnought".
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Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of Massie since reading his superb book 'Dreadnought'. I bought his latest book as soon as I saw it was available. It is very informative about sea warfare during WW1, without getting bogged down in detail. No doubt fine detail may be necessary if the subject is being studied for an exam, but not for those of us who simply wish to enjoy our historical reading.
I found it particularly interesting to discover the extent of the role of submarines during WW1.
Whilst perhaps not quite up to the superb standard set by 'Dreadnought' (hence 4* instead of 5), I am sure it will not disappoint.
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Format: Paperback
To get the best out of Castles of Steel, it would be helpful to read Masssie's previous work Dreadnought, which charts the coming of the great war.

Castles of Steel is an impressive - and large - work, and offers the reader both the nuts and bolts of the naval battles and campaigns of the First World War, and a very strong insight into the political machinations that directed them. Massie's gift is that he can both narrate naval conflicts in gripping terms (and the complexity of Jutland tests any skills of narration), offer convincing analysis of both strategies and tactics, and simultaneously privide fascinating insight into the figures such as Churchill, Beatty, Jellicoe, Hipper, Scheer and the Kaiser - to name but a few of a very large cast. Few come out with much credit; the egotism and impulsiveness of Churchill and Beatty are there for all to see. Like Nigel Steel and Peter Hart, whose Jutland 1916 is strongly recommended as the next read for anyone hooked on the subject, Massie does vindicate the much maligned Jellicoe.

A couple of very minor niggles; the paperback edition is by no means full of illustrations. A few more, illustrating the differences between armoured cruisers, battlecruisers and battleships, given this is a time of unparalleled rapidity in warship evolution, would be very helpful. Whilst Castles of Steel has end-notes and a full bibliography, these are not referenced into the text, forcing the readers to break off and flick to the back, should they wish to investigate the source of a quote. As far as Massie's narrative is concerned, I have only one issue.
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