So finished reading Dreadnought; here are my thoughts:
I liked the mini-biographies of all the players, from King Edward (player) to the Kaiser (hater – if 10% of the anecdotes are true, he was a ninny and buffoon – but he didn’t want war) to this guy (just looking at this picture will tell you that he ruled German foreign policy for 30 years from this back room – btw also not a warmonger). Not that fond of all the British politicians, though I learned a lot. I did very much enjoy reading about Jackie Fisher and his naval reforms. Every branch of every country’s military needs someone like him on the job at all times. (Also, way to predict the Battle of Jutland 5 years in advance and only be off by a few weeks)
However, I feel this book fell down on the job at the end in two major ways. First, the book is about the coming of the First World War – and the British/German naval arms race. So you’d think Massie would link the two together in an ironclad (hue!) way. However, if Germany had not built a single battleship, WWI would have still started on schedule, and the outcome would have been the same. I guess you could make the argument that if Tirpitz hadn’t insisted on building battleships and needing Britain to serve as an enemy, they might have had an alliance – but with everything else going on, it just doesn’t seem likely and is really “what-iffing” to a large degree.
Second, he really moves at a fast pace at the end. Doesn’t make much sense because the book is already 914 pages long (the other 70 mentioned are appendices and so forth) I think this is because the actual start of the war doesn’t really bear out his thesis, like it would if Germany or Britain had made a pre-emptive strike on the other’s fleet to kick things off. Like we don’t even get the mini-bio of King George at all, even though he’s been King since 1910. Several other major characters (like Von Moltke) are similarly rushed onto the scene, and we lose track of others like Fisher and the Kaiser (though one could argue that the German military also intentionally lost track of him)
Reading the critical review on Amazon from the Library Journal makes me want to pick up that Paul Kennedy book badly. That guy wrote the Rise and Fall of the Great Powers book which is a masterpiece.
Still, I’d give this book 5 stars (and I’m not sure why I’m writing this here and not on Amazon). One of my favorite history books that I’ve read, though my combined ignorance and interest of the time period definitely play a part.
Started reading some book called Liason 1914 by Edward Spears, who was pretty much the first British soldier in continental Europe at the start of the war. I saw why the French were pissed: 150 pages in, and he still hasn’t seen any action. True, he was a staff officer, (at least in the beginning, I skimmed ahead to see if there would EVER be any fighting and it didn’t look like it, so I stopped reading) but there’s only so much I can take of his intricate maps and “moved our headquarters from Champagne-aux-Folieux to Eau-de-Chatte on the 21st; the roads were quite the mess; tried to convince General Fromage to push ahead with a flank attack against the German I Corps, but Joffre sent orders that…” Also, all the French officers are excellent, all the troops are excellent, all the equipment is excellent; the guy never has a bad word to say about anyone. Which would be fine except this is August 1914, not 1814 – something about the French army was clearly NOT excellent.
Picked up Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger instead. It’s like a more real, more fast-paced All Quiet on the Western Front. Also, the Nazis liked it better. I don’t like to agree with Nazis about anything, but so far – so do I.
Training: took a few days off and travelled for Xmas. Yes, Xmas. All the non-Snopes reading Baptists down here are convinced that this is not an abbreviation, but rather a secular conspiracy of the devil. I do have some videos to post soon.