Dreadnought Paperback – Sep 15 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
Massie's sweeping narrative centers around the naval rivalry between Britain and Germany after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, highlighting this as one of the major tensions that led to WW I. Photos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From 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
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
That change in British Society continues to this day and is easily traced back to the feelings of loss and despair which came with the realisation that far too many young men had died "at the front" - even though the war itself had been won and mainland Britain had escaped unscathed.
In this epic tale, author Robert Massie delves deep into why that war occurred in the first place. Every single aspect of argument and behaviour on both sides (both military and political) is exposed and analysed. As the title of the book would suggest, the theme is the world's first great arms race. When Britain produced the first Dreadnought Battleship it rendered all other battleships obsolete at a stroke (including the remainder of the British Fleet!). From that moment onwards it was always a question of who could produce the most new Dreadnoughts in the quickest possible time. Set against this wish by both Britain and Germany to be seen as the world's supreme masters of the seas was a political intrigue which few have been able to commit to print in such a masterly fashion as is found in this book.
In short, this is one of the greatest books of our time. It is also a damn fine read.
Interestingly, the book does so from a biographical perspective. Virtually every word is focused on giving the reader a clear picture of the personalities involved, from the Queen herself to Kaiser Wilhelm (referred to unfailingly as William in the book), from Cecil Rhodes to Prince Bismarck. This makes the book somewhat more readable, but leaves the reader with the impression that the arms race (and thus the War) is entirely due to individual personalities. Very little time or attention is given to broader social developments, reducing the citizenry of each nation to little more than observers, often even less given the secrecy behind many of the developments.
Kaiser Wilhelm is especially closely considered, making it clear that, at least in part, his own inferiority complex and vacillation between Anglophilia and Anglophobia led to Germany's near-inexorable march towards war. At times, he desired nothing more than the acceptance and respect of his grandmother and uncle (Victoria and Edward VII); at others, he would repudiate any possible tempering influence they might have had. After Bismarck, one chancellor after another rotated through the government, serving at the Emperor's pleasure (due to Bismarck's design in the constitution).Read more ›
The book looks at such famous characters as Winston Chruchil, Kaiser II, and Bismark. The author details the rise of Germany, its unification and wars against its neighboors and its quest for world supremacy through colonies and military power.
The insights into naval technology, and prewar politics is interesting. The focus on England and Germany as the main rivals and also the important focus on Bismark as leader of the German states is of great interest to someone who knows little about the extraordinary birth of modern germany.
I would say, however, that Massie has a tendency to place, (although implied and not explicit), most of the blame on Germany's behavior, and particularly the excitable and difficult to manage Kaiser William II, which fits with out general assumptions and prejudices regarding this war. Throughout the book he brings in quotes from the Kaiser and his government explaining that Germany's naval ambitions were directed specifically at the British and foreshadowing the war to come. I think, however, that's Britain shares a great deal to blame in this mess, for its insistence on remaining the greatest naval power in the world and forcing other countries to reduce their own power for its benefit, (which Massie does recognize to some extent, with German denials of any anti-British attitudes in their foreign policy). The run-up to World War 1, after all, was a series of complex actions, politics, and personalities in both countries which led to one of the greatest tragedies for Europe in the twentieth century. Massie has done an excellent job in explaining and mapping out these problems and I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject.
Most recent customer reviews
The book provided an excellent read although I personally found the title misleading. It is not about the history/development of the pre 1914 Dreadnought battleship with a... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Arnold Marshall
Dreadnought is a thoroughly enjoyable history of Europe at the outbreak of WWI, certainly one of the most readable. Robert K. Massie has a gift for bringing history to life. Read morePublished 17 months ago by John Kittridge
Robert Massie is the sort of writer that makes you forget you're reading a 1,000 page history book. The writing just flows that well. Dreadnought is not an exception to this. Read morePublished on Oct. 11 2013 by Rodge
I think Robert Massie is a great writer. His epic history, Peter the Great, reads like a novel and, because I so enjoyed that book, I bought his Nicholas and Alexandra and was... Read morePublished on Sept. 24 2010 by C. J. Thompson
Despite the grand title, "Dreadnought" is not a maritime shoot-'em-up in the grand tradition of naval battles. Read morePublished on June 26 2004 by Melvin Sico
Like my title suggests, the book was a very long one [908 pages in my copy]. Even so, I could not put it down. It was very well written and there were numerous pictures. Read morePublished on June 9 2004 by Kellen
I recieved this book as a birthday gift from a friend of mine whose taste I trust when it comes to history. Read morePublished on May 29 2004 by Bill Barranco
I learned more about world history by reading this book than I think I ever did in High School. This book was a plethora of knowledge. Read morePublished on July 19 2003 by Shawn Marchinek
Everyone has their favorite writers, I suppose, and Massie is one of mine. He is ontologically incapable of writing a dull sentence. Read morePublished on June 16 2003 by Frank J. O'Connor
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