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Dreadnought [Paperback]

Robert K. Massie
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
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Product Description

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.

From 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 1914 and the resulting catastrophes of this century. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs; maps.) (Book-of-the-Month Split Main Selection for December) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Publisher


Robert Massie's DREADNOUGHT is one of the really great history reads of the last decade.

As Europe prepared for The Great War, Massie takes us through the great naval arms race. The parallel between the US/Russian nuclear arms race and the British/German arms race is inescapable. What makes this book such a special experience is the depth of character Massie explores of all those who make up the diplomatic and naval history that DREADNOUGHT depicts. The relationship between Queen Victoria and Kaiser Wilhelm is particularly intriguing. Wilhelm's admiration, and even envy, for everything British, obviously played an important part in the events to come.

The portrait of Jackie Fisher, First Sea Lord, a man who brought monumental changes to the British Navy, is worth the price of admission.

As Director of Production at Ballantine, it is such a privilege to be part of the team that participates in bringing to a large audience such a great piece of writing.

About the Author

Robert Massie is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, Dreadnought, Castles of Steel and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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