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Castles of Steel

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  2,369 Ratings  ·  130 Reviews
In August 1914 the two greatest navies in the world confronted each other across the North Sea. At first there were skirmishes, then battles off the coasts of England and Germany and in the far corners of the world, including the Falklands. The British attempted to force the Dardanelles with battleships - which led to the Gallipoli catastrophe. As the stalemate on the grou ...more
Paperback, 880 pages
Published March 3rd 2005 (first published 2003)
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Feb 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The thing about World War I that most sparks my imagination is its occurrence at a unique point in history, where the pre-modern technologies of the 19th century entwined with the familiar, modern technologies of the 20th. The result was quaint and disastrous and fascinating to behold. British officers still armed themselves with swagger sticks, important towns were still fortified, and the cavalry remained an important military branch. Meanwhile, poison gas, airplanes, high-powered artillery (a ...more
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of Robert Massie’s books concludes with the line “When the last stroke fell, Great Britain was at war with Germany.”

Another one of his books ends with the sentence “The Great War was over.”

What lies between these two lines is an unparalleled work (more than 800 pages long) of history about the war at sea between Britain and Germany in the Great War. That book is Castles of Steel.

“Castles of Steel” is the sequel to Robert Massie’s 1000 page mammoth Dreadnought which chronicles the national
Robert Massie's approach to understanding World War I through the naval battles is original and thought provoking. It is one of the best he has ever written and the prefect accompaniment to his book Dreadnought. The book tracks how the German and British navies reacted during the war and the strategies employed by both. Whether it is the chasing of cruisers around South America or the battles between the Grand Fleet (Great Britain) and the High Seas Fleet (Germany) the detail and analysis is top ...more
Jill Hutchinson
This is a "must read" if you are a Massie fan, a student of WWI history or interested in the developing stages of modern sea power. This is a wonderful narrative of the war at sea between the Grand Fleet of Great Britain and the High Seas Fleet of Imperial Germany. Massie weaves a fascinating tale of the tug-of-war between the politicians and the naval commanders on one side, and the power of the Kaiser over the Navy on the other.
Massie gives interesting insights into the personal and profession
Bob H
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The logical sequel to Dreadnought, which chronicled the Anglo-German naval arms race, a proximate cause of WWI. Here, the navies built for such an unimaginable conflict now stalk each other, and although the book focuses on the British and German parts of the war it still is valuable for those interested in history or in vivid historical writing. Particularly valuable are the little-known but critical clashes outside Europe, notably the battles off Chile and Argentina that aren't well-remembered ...more
Bas Kreuger
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
A slight, but only very, very slight, disappointment in reading Castles of Steel. Massie again writes compulsive and with an eye for detail, but what I miss is the view from both sides as he did in "Dreadnought" where the thoughts and actions of the leading politicians and naval officers was examined. After finishing "Dreadnought" I had a much better understanding how WWI came about and how and why the Germans and Brits clashed over their naval policy.
"CoS" has less policy and diplomacy and much
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In his previous history Dreadnaught, which I have not read, naval historian Robert Massie described how Britain and France built the two greatest surface fleets in the world, centered around the massive, heavily armored battleships whose massive guns could fire heavy exploding shells at target miles away. In this equally massive 865 page tome he depicts the conflict between these two navies during WW I.
When most of think of WW I, we think of the stalemated trench warfare across Belgium and Fr
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a hefty volume, but it covers WWI naval history better than any I've read before. Robert K. Massey writes with more color and illuminates more character than Barbara Tuchman (The First Salute and Guns of August) such that the details behind and concerning the build-up to these engagements at sea and the engagements themselves read more like "story" than "history." Frankly, I read Alexander Fullerton's novel about the chase of the Goeben into the Dardanelles and on into the Black Sea, but ...more
Garick Black
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Massie has quickly become one of my favorite writers. His blend of technical detail with the human drive really appeals to me. For an American, Massie tells the story the way a European would. There is no quick exposition or future telling of future American glory. Massie understands both the German and British mindset before and during the war. He does not condemn the Germans for being the 'bad guys'. He does point out more flaws in the German thinking than the British, but that can also be att ...more
Jonny Ruddock
Telling the story of the Great War at sea is a massive undertaking, and Mr Massie does it very well. The account is very readable throughout, whether he is dealing with one of the sea battles or the political machinations occurring behind the scenes. One of the difficulties of this topic to my mind is that the climactic event if the sea war occurs roughly halfway through the timeline. Thankfully the narrative doesn't slacked on either side of this event. As with Dreadnought, wonderful pen portra ...more
Nov 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike its predecessor - Dreadnought - this book zips along at a fast pace through the 4 years of war, plus the following few months of internment. The battle chapters, especially those concerning the Falkland Islands and Jutland, are intricately detailed. In between, during the long months of relative inaction, the activities of the various navies are told. Of particular significance is how close the unrestricted U-boat offensive came to winning the war.

Massie attempts to be neutral in judging
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
At it's best when describing the actual ship movements, dispositions and actions during various engagements. As with "Dreadnought" analysis of political developments are somewhat tedious. Very good bibliography and will soon read Gorden's "Jutland" from 1996.
Douglas Berry
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
When people think of World War One, they think of the miserable trenches of the Western Front, or possibly the collapse if Imperial Russia and the rise of the Soviet Union in its place. Rarely do people consider the naval war.

This amazing book, a follow-on to "Dreadnought", corrects that. It covers the sparring and raids in the North Sea between the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet. Also covered are the pursuit of the SMS Goeben and Breslau through the Mediterranean and the am
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have been listening to the book-on-CD of this, read masterfully by Richard Matthews. (his reading of Churchill is wonderful!) At 33 CD's, it is a long book. However, surprisingly to me, it is gripping reading (or listening). I have found myself learning with real anticipation about Admiral John Jellico, Admiral of the British Fleet during most of WW1; Admiral David Beatty, who led the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron under Jellicoe and then succeeded Jellicoe as Admiral of the British Fleet in 1919; ...more
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-world-war
This was an interesting, fact-filled book typical of Massie’s engaging storytelling style. However, the editing of the book leaves something to be desired. Massie continually repeats facts that he has mentioned previously in the text. One gets the feeling that the book was written without linkage of the individual chapters. That said, I still found this to be an informative insight into the now little-known naval clash between Britain and Germany.
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Considering Great Britain are so noted as being a naval nation the narrative of the First World War is so dominated by the Western Front. This book is an excellent exploration of one of the, if not the most important theatres of the war.
Jim Cunningham
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a remarkable 800 page monster! One of the best books I've ever read... worth the time invested. Massie covers everything, including some things that frankly might have been better summarized than dealt with in detail... but that's part of this exquisite book's charm. Highly recommended.
Pete Zilla
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I knew nothing about the Naval contributions to WWI - and now I know everything. Great book on the battles, politics, and personalities of the Fleets of all involved in WWI.
Devin Poore
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. So good that I don't feel I have the time to do justice to a review at this time.
Paul Foley
Aug 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: maritime, history
The centenary of WWI is near, and Robert Massie's fat book on the naval aspect of the war caught my eye. Honestly I didn't know WWI had a naval aspect. Trenches, biplanes, poison gas, yes... but dreadnoughts? Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea is a comprehensive account of the naval surface actions of that war. It is told mainly from the British (or at least anglophile) perspective: the extensive bibliography lists almost no sources in German. It is also ...more
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 4.5

All Hail Massie! Another brilliant and thoroughly enjoyable history. From start to finish I was interested in all that he had to say. He captured both the big picture and some great little details of the navel battles of WWI. I particularly liked the subterfuge, the tricks, the deceptions.

I enjoyed how the author set the parts in motion, with just enough hints that a battle is coming. Especially early on with some of the smaller skirmishes, Massie was exceptional at setting the table. By t
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unfamiliar with most of the naval aspects of the war except for Jutland, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with this. And Massie does provide us with an excellent account of the arms race and buildup to the war as well as an exhaustive study of the war at sea. Please be aware, this is not really a comprehensive look at the entire naval war of 1914-1918. Other than the North Sea actions, the U-boat war, and the Dardanelles, all other aspects are left out. The Russians, Italians, Austrians, Turkish an ...more
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Everyone’s recipe for cooking up the First World War is slightly different, but one essential ingredient is that of the arms races between various countries, especially the Anglo-Germanic quest for naval supremacy. England’s island status and naval tradition meant possessing the mightiest navy in Europe, if not the world, was a must, but Kaiser Bill’s fondness for boats meant his empire kept acquiring bigger and faster dreadnaughts. What’s worst, all of them were parked right outside Germany, wi ...more
Nov 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historians Military Naval
Shelves: history
This book is essentially volume two of Massie's work on the development of the dreadnought class warships. This book follows up with their deployment in World War One and consequent strategies that proved unrealistic and how the new and fast developing technology of the submarine affected them. The British Navy had traditionally considered it's role to be that of making a land invasion of the home isles impossible and had planned on a close blockade of the continent in the case of Germany in par ...more
Aug 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
I came to this very well written piece of popular history after reading the author’s previous book “Dreadnought” which covered Anglo-German naval rivalry up to the outbreak of the First World War. “Castles of Steel” (a phrase from Churchill) takes a largely strategic view of the conduct of the war at sea and in particular the struggle between Britain and Germany.

There are some exciting stories here and the author tells them well; the chases across miles of ocean, the often terrifying battles and
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One thing about Massie is that while he's focused on the important, he makes sure that you are aware of the context. Dreadnought earned a five star review for not just telling a great story, but also making the motivations of the primary actors clear throughout.
Castles of Steel, while an excellent story, falls down by giving too much context from the British side of the ditch with only fleeting glances into the motivations of the German players. I imagine a book on the Churchill and Fisher bala
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
After having the tremendous pleasure of reading "Dreadnought", Massie's book which deals with the decades immediately preceding outbreak of World War I, I had very high expectations for this book. I am absolutely delighted to announce that they have not been disappointed, but actually exceeded.
When it comes to history books, I try to evaluate them from two perspectives - content and narrative. In regard of content, "Castles of steel" - a single volume naval history of World War I - covers admira
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This tome is an in-depth history of the naval war between England and Germany during World War I. England had staked its national security and that or its empire on the Royal Navy. Germany's chronically insecure Kaiser had tried to build a fleet to match that of his cousin, the English King, but had diverted so much of his budget to his Imperial Army that his goal was not achieveable before the War overtook his efforts. The British strategic plan was to take advantage of the Royal Navy's numeric ...more
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Robert Massie's sequel to his superb Dreadnought, Castles of Steel depicts the epic naval struggle for command of the seas between Britain and Germany, culminating in the massed naval showdown at Jutland.

Massie's command of his material is superb. He writes clearly, making the most complex situations crystal clear. I particularly enjoyed his description of the running naval battles with the Goeben and other German commerce raiders at the beginning of the war. But Massie's real strength is his de
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Exhaustive" is almost an understatement. A beautifully written description of naval history in WW1 as well as the pressures on the key players.
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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 about Robert K. Massie...

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“Sometimes on the bridge of his flagship, Beatty would release his inner tension by making faces. “For no apparent reason,” said an officer who served with him, “he would screw his face into a fearsome grimace and hold it quite unconsciously for a minute or two.” Another peculiarity was his addiction to fortune-tellers: a Mrs. Robinson, a Madame Dubois, and, in Edinburgh when he commanded the Grand Fleet, a “Josephine.” 1 likes
“On August 2, Germany and Turkey had signed a defensive alliance against Russia. The Turks were reluctant, however, to take the actual step into war and the German embassy in Constantinople was recommending application of pressure on the grand vizier and his Cabinet. The sight of Goeben anchored off the Golden Horn was thought likely to offer formidable persuasion.” 1 likes
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