Friday, June 11, 2010

Lost in time.

Between writing about 19th Century rifle sights at the computer with an M1914 Mauser pistol lying on the desk by my elbow, and sitting on the front porch reading about the British and German buildup to the Great War, I've occasionally been mildly surprised to find myself in 2010 rather than 1910.

If you liked The Guns of August, you'll love Dreadnought. In many respects, author Robert K. Massie out-Tuchmans Barbara Tuchman in making the goings-on of a far-off place and time accessible. By focusing more in depth on a narrower cast of characters, and by following the Anglo-German naval arms race as a barometer of the approaching storm front that was to hit Europe (as Jackie Fisher so eerily predicted) in August of 1914, the author has kept my nose stuck in this literary dagwood (~900 pages in softcover) for coming on three days now. Although some of that may be due to the side-trips to my copies of Jane's Fighting Ships and The Metal Fighting Ship in the Royal Navy: 1860-1970. (The latter tome is, BTW, practically the definitive work on the subject and if you are so geeky as to be fascinated by pre-dreadnoughts, it's a must-have. I found my copy in Chicago while browsing the stacks at Powell's with Shootin' Buddy. It was such a treat that I literally rationed it to myself, only letting myself read a few pages a day to draw out the enjoyment.)

17 comments:

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

I gotta be careful reading you, Tam. You tend to stretch my book budget.

docjim505 said...

I agree with you about "Dreadnought": it's an interesting read, and I appreciate how Massey personalizes the players from Kaiser Bill to Jackie Fisher to Edward Grey. I started on an MA in US History a few years ago only to quit in disgust, a disgust borne in no small part from the efforts of modern "historians" to stamp out every bit of interesting writing style. "Hmph! This wouldn't bore the average reader to sleep, much less put him into a coma. Try again. Or are you trying to be some sort of (scoff) 'popular' historian like Ambrose?"

May I also recommend "Battleship" by Peter Padfield?

Borepatch said...

When I was in High School, the University library had a 1914 Jane's Fighting Ships in their special collection. Being a big fan of Avalon Hill's Jutland game, it was quite a treat to hang out there and browse through it.

Yeah, I was weird as a 14 year old.

Peter said...

'Dreadnought' is a magnificent volume. When you finish it, don't forget the sequel, 'Castles Of Steel', which examines the naval war from 1914-18. It's just as good, perhaps even better in its focus on matters naval and military.

I second the recommendation by docjim505 for Padfield's 'Battleship'. He's also written the, and I mean THE, definitive history of submarine warfare in World War II, as well as a number of other extraordinarily good naval histories. Check out his books online. You're in for a treat.

Aaron said...

I'll second Peter's recommendation of 'Castles of Steel', a must read for the story of World War One at sea.

If you want to see how some of these ships look today resting on the bottom of Scapa Flow, Diver Net has some pretty detailed drawings and pictures of the wrecks such as the Kronprinz Wilhelm and the Brummer .

wv: ancur - ancurs aweigh and get reading on WWI dreadnoughts!

Sean said...

Be cautious of using Jane's as a definitive source; the data was quite often intentionally altered as an intelligence device. I concur on the Castles of Steel/Dreadnought duo.

Tam said...

"Be cautious of using Jane's as a definitive source; the data was quite often intentionally altered as an intelligence device."

Yup. Which is a fun topic in its own right...

Best fun is to take the WWII-era Jane's and compare to later, declassified stuff...

Tennessee Budd said...

Another vote for "Castles of Steel"; read it a couple of years ago & will probably reread it this year (I'm exhausting the local library's resources).

Dwight Brown said...

Tam:

I started out wondering if you've read Van der Vat's *The Grand Scuttle*.

Then I got to wondering if I actually picked up the recommendation for that from your blog...

Ken said...

No more than slightly off topic, but while perusing Conway's 1922-46 and Parshall and Tully's Shattered Sword the other night, I discovered that one of my 1/2400 scale Japanese carriers is actually the island and flight deck of TAIHO grafted onto the hull of AKAGI. It was part of a short ton of stuff I picked up half price back in the '80s.

TAIHO having been an armored-flight-deck carrier and AKAGI having been a battlecruiser (BTW, I also have BC versions of AKAGI, AMAGI, and -- wait for it -- LEXINGTON in 1/2400...one day I'll put on a Bywateresque campaign), one thing's for certain -- she'll be heavy. What d'you suppose I should name her?

Rabbit said...

Go see her if you get the opportunity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Texas_%28BB-35%29

They've had an ongoing restoration/preservation project for years. Try to take the behind-the-scenes tour if available.

Buddy said...

I agree %100 on Massie's books, they don't get much better! As far as the USS Texas is concerned, Goggle the sites dedicated to her... TPWD also has hardhat tours in spring and fall. Can't wait to go on one! They take you to the areas not normally accessable to the Public. Just be careful, for there truly is absolutely nothing on this ship that is SOFT!

Andy said...

Just finished Guns of August in April, now in Hartman on Skeet and Tomorrow to be Brave queued up. Guess I can shoehorn something in.

Anonymous said...

Buddy - I concur heartily. I got to prowl the USS Texas and managed to find a number of pokey and bumpy bits. Still not as cramped as a U-Boat, though. I'm OK with small spaces but the thought of trying to work in the engine room of a U-boat without getting burned, pinched or otherwise mangled . . .

LittleRed1

Chalkie said...

Castles of Steel had a real advantage in that 1/2 price books bought a SERIOUS overrun of them a few years ago, and had piles of them at a much more generous price than the store's name would indicate. I have both dreadnought and castles of steel on my shelves. Massie is just the man to read for the period.

Ken said...

Just got Dreadnought from the university liberry yesterday. You weren't kidding -- Massie really puts one in the picture.

Ian Argent said...

I've read Dreadnought 3 times now; and am still amazed by it each time.

WV: barklet - those damn spaniels from the previous post