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

4.5 out of 5 stars 185 customer reviews

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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 (185 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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)

From the Inside Flap

"A classic [that] covers superbly a whole era...Engrossing in its glittering gallery of characters."
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Robert K. Massie has written a richly textured and gripping chronicle of the personal and national rivalries that led to the twentieth century's first great arms race. 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. Their story, and the story of the era, filled with misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and events leading to unintended conclusions, unfolds like a Greek tratedy in his powerful narrative. Intimately human and dramatic, DREADNOUGHT is history at its most riveting. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Massie makes dense historical detail very readable. He describes events leading to World War I as they unroll: there is the sense that you are present as things happen.

I enjoyed the pen-portraits of key people. Names which had been little more than labels for me are expanded into fully-fleshed portraits. The roles and influences of the European royal families make fascinating reading: descriptions of conversations, and many letters, are particularly revealing.

There are good accounts of developing naval technologies. With hindsight we can see that the evermore powerful battleships being built by Britain and Germany were quickly becoming obsolescent as new weapons such as torpedoes, mines, submarines and aircraft came on-line, together with the growing importance of aircraft carriers.

Massie also covers the many negotiations attempting to keep the peace in Europe: but these were doomed as Austria and Germany were, apparently, committed to war.

This period marks the relative decline of the Royal Navy as the dominant world naval force. Massie shows how this decline reflected the growing industrial power of other nations, particularly the United States.

Overall, highly recommended as a good and informative read.
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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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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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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
This book is one of those fine and not so common works that combines fine scholarship and serious history with a literary flair and style that shames many novelists. The book really brings the subject to life with a vivid and colourful prose style that really does justice to the glorious cast of characters (Churchill, Fisher, Tirpitz, the Kaiser etc) yet is finely judged and penetrating in its analysis and mastery of the subject. The book is remarkably balanced and is both broad in scope and richly detailed, with the arguments and events being covered in great detail. The story is not the definitive history of events leading to the great war and is clearly centered on the Anglo-German naval race and the international tensions this created. This was certainly not the only cause of world war one, it was not even the principal cause of the war in my opinion but it was certainly a principal reason for Britain's involvement in the war and this was decisive for the outcome of the war and the defeat of Germany. The book pays attention to the technical advances and takes its title from HMS Dreadnought, a ship so revolutionary and one of the few genuine paradigm ships in military technology yet which had a rather minor part in the war itself. The character of Jackie Fisher, that flawed genius is brought to life as it that somewhat less colourful but perhaps equally important figure of Tirpitz and the ideas and influences of both of these naval leaders form the thread running through this book. The navies that faced each other in 1914 were in no small part the creations of these two men and it is hard to understate the importance of their contributions to their respective countries naval preparations in the years before 1914. A joy to read and a 5* book.
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