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

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

Robert K. Massie. Random House (NY), $35 (1007pp) ISBN 978-0-394-52833-5

Massie's sweeping narrative centers around the naval rivalry between Britain and Germany after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, highlighting it as one of the major tensions that led to the World War I. He recounts how Admiral John Fisher revolutionized the Royal Navy with the construction of the first modern battleship, H.M.S. Dreadnought, in 1906, and how Britain's ``splendid isolation'' ended when Fisher's German counterpart Admiral Alfred Tirpitz carried out Kaiser Wilhelm's directives for the construction of an equally modern German navy. The author describes the development of Wilhelm's self-described ``peculiar passion for the navy,'' nurtured during frequent boyhood visits to the seaside retreat of his beloved grandmother, Queen Victoria, on the Isle of Wight, into a dangerous resolve to turn Germany into a major naval, colonial and commercial power. Finally, Massie shows how Wilhelm's military machine and the system of alliances he created contributed directly to the outbreak of war in 1914. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Nicholas and Alexandra has written a richly satisfying account of the origins of the Great War. Photos. BOMC selection; author tour. (Nov.)