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by Robert K. Massie

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"A classic [that] covers superbly a whole era...Engrossing in its glittering gallery of characters."
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…  See more details below


"A classic [that] covers superbly a whole era...Engrossing in its glittering gallery of characters."
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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Massie's sweeping narrative centers around the naval rivalry between Britain and Germany after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, highlighting it as one of the major tensions that led to the World War I. He recounts how Admiral John Fisher revolutionized the Royal Navy with the construction of the first modern battleship, H.M.S. Dreadnought, in 1906, and how Britain's ``splendid isolation'' ended when Fisher's German counterpart Admiral Alfred Tirpitz carried out Kaiser Wilhelm's directives for the construction of an equally modern German navy. The author describes the development of Wilhelm's self-described ``peculiar passion for the navy,'' nurtured during frequent boyhood visits to the seaside retreat of his beloved grandmother, Queen Victoria, on the Isle of Wight, into a dangerous resolve to turn Germany into a major naval, colonial and commercial power. Finally, Massie shows how Wilhelm's military machine and the system of alliances he created contributed directly to the outbreak of war in 1914. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Nicholas and Alexandra has written a richly satisfying account of the origins of the Great War. Photos. BOMC selection; author tour. (Nov.)
Library Journal
This is a case study in the limits of a particular style of history. Massie's previous biographically focused narrative histories, Peter the Great ( LJ 9/15/80) and Nicholas and Alexandra ( LJ 7/67), succeeded intellectually because of the nature of autocratic decision making. The British and German systems were too complicated and too democratic to respond to a biographical focus. This massive volume, while reminding us of the importance of individuals in decision making, nevertheless ultimately misrepresents the Anglo-German rivalry as essentially a conflict of personalities. The naval race, purportedly the book's focus, is submerged in a sea of anecdotes about ministers and monarchs. Many are interesting; few are original. Moreover, neither Massie's text nor his bibliography shows significant traces of the immense body of German-language scholarship on this complex subject. Long and intricate for the general reader, this is incomplete for the serious student. Paul Kennedy's equally massive The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism (Allen & Unwin, 1980) is no less well written and provides a much more comprehensive account. BOMC main selection.-- D.E. Showalter, U.S. Air Force Acad., Colorado Springs
Kirkus Reviews
Here, as with his Pulitzer Prize-winning Peter the Great (1980), Massie disdains the virtues of literary economy. Yet this history of pre-WW I super-rivalry is much more than an imposing doorstop, for the author is a master of the Barbara Tuchman/William Manchester school of popular history. If there is a villain of this epic, it is Germany's Kaiser William II. Autocratic, bellicose, and tactless enough to refer to British ministers as "unmitigated noodles," he understandably grieved his grandmother and uncle, Britain's Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). In his desire for Weltmacht (world power), William, in 1887, decided to complement the world's most powerful army with a formidable battle fleet, so alarming Great Britain that it ended its foreign policy of "Splendid Isolation" from Continental affairs and began a frantic shipbuilding program of its own. Massie follows the fortunes of the two countries through colonial disputes, secret understandings with former foes, high-wire diplomacy, and tit-for-tat building of dreadnoughts (the class of fast, all-big-gun battleships named for the innovative British vessel built in 1906). Like 19th-century novelists, Massie employs an epic narrative that leisurely explores characters, including such military and political figures as Admirals Alfred von Tirpitz and John Fisher, the commanders who radically transformed their countries' naval defenses; Bernard von Bulow, the cynical German Chancellor who "lacked purpose, scruples, courage, and a vision of his own"; and Winston Churchill. A dramatic re-creation of the diplomatic minuets and military brinkmanship that preceded, and made inevitable, the guns of August 1914and the resulting catastrophes of this century. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs; maps.) (Book-of-the-Month Split Main Selection for December)

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Dreadnought Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don't beleive the bias baloney. This book is superb. It covers absolutely everything, the politics, colonialization, the Boer war,the Boxer Rebellion, Fashoda, the Morrocco Crisis, Agadir, the scheming of France, England, Germany and Russia and of course the building of the Dreadnought. The characters are true, the prose is crisp and each chapter easily accomplishes the writers goal of advancing the narrative. A 900 page book that never flags. The Germans are more intersting to me than the British. Kaiser William, Admiral Tirpitz, Bulow, Bismarck etc make for somewhat more compelling figures than Asquith, Lloyd George, Grey and Churchill. There is no panegyric to Churchill. He comes across as egotistical, pretentious, overconfident - all of which he was. And could there be a worse mother than Jennie Churchill? And at the end when the Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey praises the German Ambassador Lichnowsky, ' for no man had worked harder to avert war...or more genuinely hated this coming war' you realize how the sweep of events had outstripped these men's abilities to control them. Of course, the book is also blessed with Mister Massie's perspicacious observations and analysis. A triumph by every meassure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the way history should be written.This is not so much about the battleship Dreadnaught as it is a fascinating detailed and above all readable treatise about the Victorian era politics of Britain and Germany.It is outstanding even though it is long you simply cannot put it down. But then this is Massie one not only of the best historians but also a very gifted writer. (Oh how I wish Niall Ferguson were that colorful of a writer!).Politics could be a very dry subject but Massie makes the characters come very alive even people that are somewhat colorless like Salisbury and Bethmann-Hollweg. Churchill and Bismarck are easy to describe vividly. Salisbury and Bethmann-Hollweg are not. Yet Massie manages that. Battleships and John Arbuthnot Fisher are entertaining. Yet Massie manages all his characters to be vivid and relevant. Truly great book.The only one that tops it is his Castles of Steel and Tuchman's Guns of August.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very creative
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am finding this book to be very imformative as to what transpired in Europe during the forty, or so, years prior to World War 1.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm not a World War I buff, but the author very much held my interest. He seemed to try very hard to present all viewpoints fairly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a deaply flawed book.It buys into all the old anti-German propaganda myths about the events leading up to WWI.In fact the naval rivalry was started by the British militarists such as Churchill(who never met a war he didn't like) and Balfour as an excuse to build up its fleet.In fact the German fleet was never a threat to the British fleet,as the war showed, and it certainly was no threat to the combined fleets of England,France and Russia.The naval rivaly,largely imaginary to start out with,ended on Feb. 7,1913 when Germany agreed to build only 10 battleships for every 16 the British built,giving the British a permanent naval superiority.Unfortunately this did nothing to prevent the war because the British had already decided to destroy Germany.Of course the book contains the obligitory anti-German bias all books like this always have.Most of the German figures in the book are portrayed as monsters or lunatics of one sort or another while,of course,the war mongering British militarists like Balfour,Fisher and Churchill are all portrayed as heros.All in all this book is little more than yet another replay of 90 year old propaganda.