Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War
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Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  2,895 ratings  ·  149 reviews
"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...more
Hardcover, 1007 pages
Published October 29th 1991 by Random House (first published 1991)
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The Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanThe Price of Glory by Alistair HorneDreadnought by Robert K. MassieThe First World War by John KeeganAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Military History of the First World War
3rd out of 145 books — 38 voters
A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. TuchmanThe Wars of the Roses by Alison WeirWhat Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel PoolGeorgiana by Amanda ForemanEleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir
British History
79th out of 384 books — 97 voters


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Community Reviews

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Marcus
First the bad news – this book is not, strictly speaking, about the topic alluded to by the title. Yes, the development of the British and German navies and effect of that arms race figures very prominently in the book, but it is by no means a book solely about those events. Rather, naval arms race between Great Britain and imperial Germany is used as a red thread binding together a story that starts in the middle of Victorian era and ends with the outbreak of the Great War.

The good news is that...more
Matt
Dreadnought is the story of the naval arms race between England and Germany leading up to World War I. Now, anyone who has taken the time to think about World War I knows that it is a nearly-intractable subject when it comes its genesis. We all learn in school about the myriad entangling alliances, in which a number of triggers built into a series of treaties flipped one by one, like a perverse game of dominoes. Germany's treaty with Austria (Dual Alliance) implicated by Austria's alliance with...more
Bas Kreuger
A fantastic book, a joy to read. Massie intertwines the history of Germany and Britain on a political and military level, describing the lives and thoughts of leading politicians and military (mostly admirals) and of course the Royal heads ruling in Europe. He colours this broad canvas of almost 50 - 60 years (1850 - 1914) with anecdotes and petit histoire that gives an almost voyeurish view in the heads and lives of the people involved.
Although supposedly focussing on the naval arms race betwee...more
Joseph
Dreadnoughts. Looking for information on the Battle of Jutland, or the design or evolution of the Dreadnought, or role of navel power in World War I? Look elsewhere. However, If you want to learn more of Queen Victoria's offspring and the evolution of European relations up to the start of World War I, then this is the book for you. Two sections of photo inserts show all the major players in the upcoming war and a single picture of H.M.S. Dreadnought (the last picture in the second section of pho...more
M. D.  Hudson
Fascinating book, if you like 900 pages of looming catastrophe, which I do. Mostly, the book deals with the ridiculous, expensive naval build-up between the naval powers between c. 1890 to 1914, and we all know what happened in 1914. The folly of man and governments is boundless and apparently eternal, and I highly recommend this book to quench any election fever you might be feeling (whomever you’re voting for). It is surprisingly readable – nice genial prose, and I only got bogged down when th...more
Liviu
This is a huge book (ok the title Dreadnought implies huge...) and it took me a while to read in smaller chunks, but it is very compulsive; there is a sequel about the actual war as this one ends with the British Cabinet of August 1914 watching the clock ticking and then beating the hour when the ultimatum to Germany expired...

Before that we are treated with a history of Germany and Britain from the Napoleonic wars but with an emphasis to the period from Wilhelm II (oldest grandson of Victoria)...more
Rob, the Monk
A fairly thorough political analysis of the Great War's antecedent half century with particular attention to Germany, England, and the role of sea power. Massie's thesis initially struck me as a bit wide of the point given the relatively small role of the navies in what was overwhelmingly a land war, but throughout this lengthy book he discusses the important part naval development played in directing the course of the war. Given that, his focus on Germany and England makes a bit more sense as t...more
Mark Russell
I doubt there's ever been a book written that will help you understand the causes of World War I better. An exhaustive piece of research, it focuses mainly on the rivalry between Britain and Germany for supremacy in Europe and how royal family squabbles and jealousies set the Hohenzollern dynasty and the German nation on a collision course with England and Russia.

Though the book does get bogged down from time to time in litanies of ship tonnage and gunnery, it makes up for it with an equally am...more
Ryan
Somewhat classical in its approach--great persons, great events, great battles--but I find it interesting only because I've been looking for a good European history read for some time, and I know very little about any of the subjects in this book.

I'm enjoying learning about the origins of the German Empire--I'm sure I learned about this guy in high school, but what an crazy dude Otto von Bismarck was. He defeated Denmark, Austria, and France all in separate engagements, eventually leading to the...more
Ruth-Anne
I thought I was going to read about the development of battleships, or specifically the battleship "Dreadnought". Instead, I discovered the totally absorbing world of the Victorian era -- the personalities, politics, and problems that lead to World War I. I've re-read it several times, always discovering (or re-discovering) some tidbit of information that leads me to another facet of this period of history to investigate. It may be long, but it is brilliant! Robert Massie has created a classic.
Eric
May 27, 2009 Eric marked it as to-read
Shelves: peteredout
Putting this aside for now, 175 pages in. The opening chapters on Germany's rise under Bismarck were so absorbing that the shift to parallel English politics killed my interest. Bismarck, his sucessor chancellors and Foreign Ministry minons, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Admiral von Tirpitz are fascinating in a way that the rotating English ministers just aren't. I guess Great Man autocracies make for more gripping narrative history than the "shopkeeper politics" of English democracy.
Sam
May 02, 2007 Sam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History people
I was told to read this book for my Modern European History class Junior Year of High School. This book made me fall completly in love with history literature, and it showed my that not all history books are like text books. Its play between overarching politcal and cultural paterns, and biographies of people, helped balance the themes as they rampaged their way to their inevitable end. A great book. And one that will go down in my personal history forever.
Shaun Appleby
A comprehensive account of the events and personalities involved in the Anglo-German naval rivalry of 1895-1914. While evenly detailed the author treats the respective cohorts of involved parties in a manner which creates some chronological overlaps which interrupt the narrative flow, requiring some recapitulation on his part from time-to-time. But to a student of this period it is essential, and exhaustive, reading.
Kym Andrew Robinson
An excellent and in depth read which covers the lead up to the Great War with a specific naval edge. A great focus is placed on the German and English naval arms race with consideration to the major players.

In some ways this book is a collection of biographies on those 'great' men of this age. The men who influenced the policy and strategy of the naval world from their perspective nations and positions that they held within them.

I found this book to be an excellent read which was quite exciting...more
Denis
ALONG WITH ITS COMPANION VOLUME - CASTLES OF STEEL - THIS IS A FIRST RATE HISTORY OF THE EVENTS AND PERSONALITIES OF THE NVAL FORCES IN WW I. YOU DON'T NEED TO CARE ABOUT THE WAR. THE BOOK WILL GRIP YOU ANYWAY. AND WAS THERE EVER SUCH A PERSONALITY AS JACKIE FISHER?
Robert Collins
This is a long book. You can tell that Massie probably began writing a pointed study of the naval arms race between Britain and Germany and the personalities involved, but was drawn further and further into the Greek tragedy that was Europe's descent into world war. The subject is irresistible, and Massie's succinct character sketches make it come alive. This is a highly entertaining and informative book, but it has its flaws.
The academic study of history is both an art and a science, and by aca...more
Ondrej
Tematem teto knihy je objasneni historickeho vyvoje, jehoz dusledkem byl vstup Velke Britanie do Prvni svetove valky na strane Francie a Ruska. Jak se mohla ostrovni rise, majici odedavna vrele vztahy s Pruskem, jehoz cisar je vnuk kralovny Viktorie, nakonec priklonit na stranu Francie, jejiho tradicniho nepritele?

Kniha vypravi historii Evropy, ale zejmena domaci a zahranicni politiky Nemecka a Velke Britanie od nastupu Bismarcka k moci do zacatku Svetove valky. Hlavni spojnici je pak Kralovske...more
Gregory House
Dreadnought by Robert K Massie

In this era of mass histories where a single brief event generates a hundred instant histories within a few weeks and twice as many reviews, it is difficult to discuss the immense scope of this book without sounding trite or descending to the usual polemic of Brilliant …Astounding …a Major Work.
The problem is that Massie’s book is all of those declamations and more, so what can I say? As social, technical, political and personal history of the era and characters t...more
Mark

Dreadnought
By Robert K. Massie
Publisher: Random House
Published In: New York, NY
Date: 1991
Pgs: 1007

Summary:
This follows the lives and times of the movers and shakers in Britain and Germany in the lead up to World War One. The politicians and royals speeches and papers are used to give them voice as the shaping events move inexorably toward war. It begins with Trafalgar in 1805 and flows through the reign of Queen Victoria up to the declaration of war by the United Kingdom following the currents a...more
Eric
Robert Massie seems to have a knack for bringing rather narrow topics, i.e. pre-First World War naval history and policy in Great Britain and the German Empire, to the general reader.

When I picked up this book, though I was drawn to it by my interest in First World War warships, I was rather worried about how technical Massie would be. As it happens, the title is rather misleading. "Dreadnought" covers every relevant person, event, and technological development between the end of the Napoleonic...more
Kathy
This book is essential reading for anyone interested in world war 1. On the surface Europe was in a golden age in 1913/1914 but tensions were simmering underneath about to explode. This book provides a series of biographies of the main players whose decisions lead to world war 1. Very few people wanted war, but insecurities, national pride, the economy, individual egos and legal obligations meant that in the end war could not be avoided even though at least in the UK and France right up to the l...more
Maitrey
A brilliant chronicle of Europe right from Queen Victoria taking the British throne, to major events such as the German unification, the Boer War right to the coming of the Great War.

Dreadnought is magnificent in sheer scale, and gives great biographical accounts of Bismarck, Admiral John "Jackie" Fisher (who built the eponymous Dreadnought), Kaiser Wilhelm II and even Winston Churchill in his early years along with a host of (mainly political) characters in Britain and Germany.

Dreadnought allow...more
Max
Dreadnought is the story of the naval arms race between Britain and Germany prior to WWI and the development of the modern British Navy, but even more it is the story of the people, policies and diplomacies of the governments of Britain and Germany in those years. Massie is at his best profiling the lives of the leaders, politicians and diplomats in myriad biographical vignettes. Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Magot & H. H. Asquith, Joseph Chamberlain, Arthur Balfour, Edward Grey, Ri...more
Curtis
Nov 27, 2007 Curtis rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historians Military Naval
Shelves: history
As methodology goes Massey seems to be a mixture of classical great man with elements of social history to put things in perspective. At times it is the social driving the man as when Kaiser William II is caught up in the allegations of homosexuality in his inner circle and at times where the man is driving history as when Jackie Fischer drives the modernization of the British Navy. This is not a names and dates history book, although it does have that of course, but rather it seems to blend a t...more
Jacob
Jun 07, 2007 Jacob rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Buffs
I haven't read a Robert K. Massie book since Peter the Great when I was 16. The book fascinated me and captured my imagination for a long time. I own Nicholas and Alexandra but have never cracked it open. Dreadnought, being a Christmas gift from a couple years back stood on my shelf, equally forlorn until a couple of months ago.

Now I remember why the first Massie book I read kept me so enthralled. His attention to detail is brilliant in that he picks small details that are actually interesting -...more
Tneeno
Very interesting work. Massie looks at the life of Adm. Jackie Fisher, the fiery genius who transformed (and outraged) the British navy in the years before World War I. I would particularly recommnd this book to executives in businesses that deal with innovation and rapid change. Adm. Fisher's revolutionary ideas transformed naval warfare, but they also aroused bitter opposition by the old guard. Being able to watch how new ideas come in, and how they are challenged by entrenched interests, is w...more
Lance
Read this as research in preparation for my upcoming game design "Towards the Abyss." Excellent historical overview of the events leading up to the outbreak of the Great War (World War I), focusing primarily on Great Britain and Germany. The only two shortcomings I felt the book had was that it (a) presumed the reader was already familiar with the basic internal workings of the Imperial German and British governments, and (b) it often glossed over interesting/important events that didn't primiar...more
Hotspur
Jul 01, 2008 Hotspur rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historians, naval history fanatics, dreadnought fanatics
Recommended to Hotspur by: adults, with some grounding in WWI history.
simply one of the finest records of the history directly prior to the Great War in existence. The title is very deceptive-- this is more a tale of Great Power era politics than it is a recounting of naval history. Massie makes the internecine squabbling of that generation of monarchs that were all Queen Victoria's grandchildren (or nephews, in the case of the Kaiser) into a grand family argument with deadly consequences. The other interesting facet of DREADNOUGHT is the rise and fall of Jackie F...more
Roger Neilson
Feels like a marathon - a very long read.

Scholarly and very informative, though the narrative at times winds back on itself as the same crisis is visited again as its from a different person's perspective.

Hard work, but for anyone interested in the lead up to the Great War its a brilliant read.

Took me back to my O Level History lessons.
Jon
Well, I've thrown in the towel. The title Dreadnought should be changed to Dreadful. I came to a realization last night that almost every time I open this book, I'm put into a catatonic coma shortly after reading for about 30 minutes. This book is not only a monster in scope - a tomb as one might say, but it is so over the top specific to the point of never-ending. I am not sure most readers need as much informaiton about the minutae of the players of the time. Credit to the author for his exten...more
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Robert Kinloch Massie (born 1929) is an American historian, writer, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, and a Rhodes Scholar.

Born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1929, Massie spent much of his youth in Nashville, Tennessee and currently resides in Westchester County, New York in the village of Irvington. He studied American history at Yale University and modern European history at Oxford University on his Rhode...more
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