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4.30  ·  Rating details ·  5,636 ratings  ·  285 reviews
"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 fi
Paperback, 1040 pages
Published September 15th 1992 by Ballantine Books (first published October 29th 1991)
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Average rating 4.30  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,636 ratings  ·  285 reviews

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Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 Serbia impl ...more
this book has been praised to seventh heaven and back, what can I add ?
For those familiar with the facts of European diplomacy and defence in the period ca. 1890-1914, Massie will bring them to life with love.

It does not tell the neatly wrapped story of the origins of WWI, nor does it focus exclusively on the naval armaments race between the British and German empires. At over a 1000 pages it is certainly not aimed at the novice history aficionado.

Rather, it is a score written for the saga of Clark and
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With more than 900 pages, this book is not for the casual reader. However, the writing style makes this read like a novel. Highly recommended if you want to know more about the people and events leading up to the Great War

Central theme in the book is the race between Great Britain and Germany for naval supremacy. Great Britain, due to her island geography, was forced to rely on her naval supremacy for her own survival. Germany, being the central great industrial power on the continent, had
This is an outstanding work of narrative history, featuring a detailed account of the gradually deteriorating relationship between Britain and Germany from the mid-19th century up to the outbreak of WWI. In terms of analysis, the book doesn’t provide anything I haven’t read in other works, but it has many other strengths, and the last two chapters in particular swung my rating from 4 to 5 stars.

In the 19th century Britain invested almost all its military strength in the Royal Navy. I
Jill Hutchinson
In a word...........fantastic. One of, if not the best, histories of the build-up of sea powere between Great Britain and Germany prior to WWI. This should be read as a preface to "Castles of Steel" also by Massie. The highest recommendation.
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
This is a superb history of the events and characters surrounding the years leading up to WWI.

Massie starts with Queen Victoria, her childhood, her reign as Queen and her offspring. For a long time I did not realize how the major leaders in Europe were all related to each other, having Queen Victoria for a grandmother.

Massie does an excellent job of describing the English culture vs the German culture and how fiercely nationalistic both countries were, although Germany se
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't read a lot of history, but when I do I want it to matter. Happily, DREADNOUGHT by Robert K. Massie is not the kind of big huge historical book that plods through ten times one hundred pages (and then some), but brilliantly sails the body of pre-WWI preludes to total war, using Anglo-Germanic naval rivalry as an entering wedge to understanding all of the arms races and diplomatic jockeying that led to that total war in 1914. (Not for nothing have many prior reviewers noted that the title ...more
Joseph Spuckler
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war
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 photographs).

Bas Kreuger
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
M. D.  Hudson
Oct 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who wants to understand how the Great War came about should read this book. the War was about more than the asassination of Franz Ferdinand, competition between Russia and Austria-Hungary for dominion over Slavs, French resentment of Germany's Franco-Prussian War victory. This book provides the missing piece to the puzzle. And it's a history book that reads like a novel.
Martin Budd
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magnificent on every level. Encompasses military, social and economic history. Political shenanigans, personalities, biography, nationalism, jingoism and, of course the mightiest battleship of them all. Recommended without hesitation.
Sep 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: european-history
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
Kym Robinson
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.

The book manages to compile its dense material in such
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 o
Bob H
A sweeping panorama by Robert Massie of England and Germany in the decades before the Great War, centered on the naval arms race that would be a major cause of the conflict (HMS Dreadnought being the technical centerpiece of the day's naval technology). The personalities are every bit as vivid and well-drawn as in his Nicholas and Alexandra or his Peter the Great: His Life and World: Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm, Edward VII, Admiral Fisher, Winston Churchill, Lloyd George, and more. The book isn't limited to ...more
Mark Russell
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Jan 29, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is wonderful; meticulously researched, mind boggling in its scope and clearly the work of a master biographer. The one downside? It was SO. VERY. LONG. Massie could have written a series of mini biographies on each of the historical figures in this book and still had enough material to write a comfortable, thousand word bestseller. Definitive. Visionary. Incredible. INFINITE.
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolute beast of a book, weighing in at over 1,000 pages. Don't let the title fool you; a better title would be something like, "The Nineteenth Century Naval Arms Race That Helped Set the Stage for a World War, With Biographic Sketches of a Full Range of Supporting Characters of Many Nations, Giving Particular Emphasis to British and German Politicians, Diplomats, and Naval Personages." If you're looking for a book about ships, you'll find them here and in abundance, but they're not Massie's ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a comprehensive history of the British-German relations in the years leading to WWI. Not only are we introduced to the details of the original arms race, but we get short biographic snapshots of the leading figures on both sides, both on the military and especially the political side. The book is exhaustive and fascinating for the students of the European geopolitics and military history.
Soul Survivor
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I feel like I just completed a triathlon . Filled in all the details I'll ever want to know about a period of history that I only had a fuzzy modicom of knowlege of .
Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
So that took a while, to be fair I picked it up immediately after I bought it, read 100 pages and then put it down. Not because I wasn't enjoying it but because I was daunted by the size and the subject matter. But I resolved that in 2016 I would finally commit to finishing this book. And I finally did it, and it was really good.
Dirk Verhulst
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Massie is a great author and historian. I devour with pleasure each book he has written.
Shaun Flaherty
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A masterwork in historical literature. Such a vast and broad wealth of sources are synthesized seamlessly into an easy to follow narrative. This work elegantly illustrates the intricate and complicated political and diplomatic relationship between Great Britain and Germany over a 50 year period.
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Massie’s ‘Dreadnought’ is a book with an ambitious goal: to present fifty years of European history through the prism of Anglo-German relations and to show how this rivalry was the driving force behind the tragic slipping of Europe into the First World War. To accomplish this Massie focuses on the naval arms race that began with the launching of HMS Dreadnought in 1906 and ended in year after year of deteriorating diplomatic relations as both Britain and Germany built battleship after bat ...more
Ian Raffaele
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The French aristocracy during the Second Empire under Napoleon III delighted in rubbing American diplomats and expatriates’ noses in shit while our country tore itself apart in Civil War. Their argument was republics run by common people tend not to last; eventually doomed to collapse in on themselves. Whereas monarchies and empires lasted long enough to establish dynasties to oversee long periods of stability and growth. There was much in history to back this claim. What republics or other form ...more
Rob, the Monk
Dec 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 20, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2010
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
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 le
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Robert Kinloch Massie is an American historian, writer, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, and a Rhodes Scholar.

Born in Lexington, Kentucky, 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 Rhodes Schola
“He was said to ride hallooing through the night, to be ready to shoot, hunt, or swim anywhere in any weather, to be able to drink half a dozen young lieutenants from nearby garrisons under the table, to wake up his occasional guests by firing a pistol through their bedroom windows, to have seduced every peasant girl in all the villages, to have released a fox in a lady’s drawing room.” 2 likes
“But I should think our patriotism was warped and stunted indeed if it did not embrace the Greater Britain beyond the seas—the young and vigorous nations carrying everywhere a knowledge of the English tongue and English love of liberty and law. With these feelings, I refuse to speak or think of the United States as a foreign nation. They are our flesh and blood.… Our past is theirs. Their future is ours.…” 1 likes
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