Castles of Steel

Castles of Steel

Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea

Book - 2003
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Random House, Inc.
In a work of extraordinary narrative power, filled with brilliant personalities and vivid scenes of dramatic action, Robert K. Massie, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and Dreadnought, elevates to its proper historical importance the role of sea power in the winning of the Great War.

The predominant image of this first world war is of mud and trenches, barbed wire, machine guns, poison gas, and slaughter. A generation of European manhood was massacred, and a wound was inflicted on European civilization that required the remainder of the twentieth century to heal.

But with all its sacrifice, trench warfare did not win the war for one side or lose it for the other. Over the course of four years, the lines on the Western Front moved scarcely at all; attempts to break through led only to the lengthening of the already unbearably long casualty lists.

For the true story of military upheaval, we must look to the sea. On the eve of the war in August 1914, Great Britain and Germany possessed the two greatest navies the world had ever seen. When war came, these two fleets of dreadnoughts—gigantic floating castles of steel able to hurl massive shells at an enemy miles away—were ready to test their terrible power against each other.

Their struggles took place in the North Sea and the Pacific, at the Falkland Islands and the Dardanelles. They reached their climax when Germany, suffocated by an implacable naval blockade, decided to strike against the British ring of steel. The result was Jutland, a titanic clash of fifty-eight dreadnoughts, each the home of a thousand men.

When the German High Seas Fleet retreated, the kaiser unleashed unrestricted U-boat warfare, which, in its indiscriminate violence, brought a reluctant America into the war. In this way, the German effort to “seize the trident” by defeating the British navy led to the fall of the German empire.

Ultimately, the distinguishing feature of Castles of Steel is the author himself. The knowledge, understanding, and literary power Massie brings to this story are unparalleled. His portrayals of Winston Churchill, the British admirals Fisher, Jellicoe, and Beatty, and the Germans Scheer, Hipper, and Tirpitz are stunning in their veracity and artistry.

Castles of Steel is about war at sea, leadership and command, courage, genius, and folly. All these elements are given magnificent scope by Robert K. Massie’s special and widely hailed literary mastery.

Baker & Taylor
The author continues his study of early twentieth-century military and naval history in an analysis of the confrontation between the two most powerful navies in the world as the British and Germans clashed at sea during World War I.

& Taylor

The Putlizer Prize-winning author of Dreadnaught continues his study of early twentieth-century military and naval history in an in-depth analysis of the confrontation between the two most powerful navies in the world as the British and Germans clashed at sea around the world during World War I. 125,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Random House, c2003
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780679456711
Branch Call Number: 940.4594 MA
Characteristics: xii, 865 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm


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May 04, 2018

Most of us have come to know World War 1 as a war of grinding trench warfare that devoured the soldiers of both sides by the hundreds of thousands. Not so well known and often overlooked bu students of this war has been the war at sea. Granted it involved not nearly as many combatants as did the war on land but, for Britain, there was, perhaps, more at stake than the fighting on the continent. A loss at sea would have left all of Britain very much at risk to the German forces.
At sea, the conflicts were rather limited. Neither side, but most especially the Germans, were reluctant to venture far from their home port for fear of exposing their fleet to the British forces.
The naval arms race had focused on bigger ships; faster ships; more guns; bigger guns; guns capable of achieving greater range; heavier armour capable of withstanding deadlier shell.
All of this is summed up precisely by author Massie.
Students of this turning point in European history will appreciate this book's narrative of the story of the war; of the biographical background of some of the major individuals, the sea lords, the admirals, the captains, that were central to these events. The level of detail is amazing. Massie's attention to detail, his command of the events of the battles is overwhelming.
This is the book to read to get a grasp of World War 1 at sea.

Jul 09, 2016

A very strong and entertaining narrative, especially considering the amount of technical detail present.

Jun 16, 2016

Whereas Dreadnought was a political and social history of the pre-Great War naval arms race, this is an operational-level history of the war at sea. Definitely recommend it both to fans of Dreadnought, or the Guns of August for that matter, as well as to naval history buffs.

Oct 07, 2013

Who knew the English-German naval war was worth delving into (although it does feel like a Russian novel sometimes)? A brilliant followup to 'Dreadnought,' which, weirdly, doesn't seem to be in the MultCo system.

Mar 11, 2013

This book is so interesting and well written! It's a real pleasure to read. I recommended it to anybody who enjoys history, especially naval history. I can't wait to read "Dreadnought" by the same author!


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