Blog powered by Typepad

« A little gem of commonsense to cheer you all up | Main | An English gent followed by two German rotters - or rottweillers! »

Saturday, 31 May 2008


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Great comment! Truly egaging. I run to abebooks to order the book. Thank you!

Ortega, for some reason the dealers with copies available are asking outrageous prices. I offered one of them £10 - he was asking over £20 as I recall - and got it.

Also, I would *highly* recommend:

"Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War" by Robert K. Massie

I rate this as one of the best history books I have ever read. It's still in bookshops although Abebooks will certainly have second-hand copies. If you're not too familiar with the period I would start with Massie's book first.

"One of my favourite periods of history is the Edwardian era and the run-up to WWI."

Ditto. I particularly like the fact that, for all the intrigue and movements of power, there were still some gentlemen in influential positions. (It is hard to imagine nowadays a man like Edward Goschen being ambassador to a rival nation.) Good character -- even eccentricity -- still held its own against professionalism.

Have you read The Quest for C: Mansfield Cumming and the Founding of the Secret Service by Alan Judd? It is excellent for the history of British espionage -- fake beards and all -- leading up to WWI.

Ah yes, the original 'C'! Actually I have (yet) another book on my pile of waiting-to-be-read books on the subject of another man who might claim to be the founder of the British secret service - Francis Walsingham. Of course, in those far off days such things were more a matter of private enterprise than state endeavour. I suspect Walsingham was in Shakespeare's mind when he wrote these terrific lines from 'T&C':

"The providence that's in a watchful state
Knows almost every grain of Pluto's gold,
Finds bottom in th' uncomprehensive deeps,
Keeps place with thought and almost like the gods
Does thoughts unveil in their dumb cradles.
There is a mystery, with whom relation
Durst never meddle, in the soul of state, which hath an operation more divine
Than breath or pen can give expressure to."

Sounds like a good, if overlong, motto for MI5 or 6!

I've been to abebooks. 40 pounds the cheapest !!! (sight).
Thank you for your sugestion of Massie's books. I'll start by it.
Most kind of you.


A great post. i'll see if they have a reasonably priced version on this side fo the pond

Ortega, just e-mail the dealers and offer them £10. Sooner or later one of them will decide he would rather have the money than the book! Even so, unless you are already very familiar with the period, start with Massie's book first. Unlike Marxist historians he recognises the importance of personality and he brings all the main actors to life in a very vivid way, as well as explaining the politics very clearly.

You make me curious, Ortega. You appear not to be English (or Prussian!) and I wonder why this particular period of Anglo-German history interests you so much?

Hank, same goes for you if you have not read him already Massie's (he's an American) book is terrific.

I won't comment on Sir Edward Grey's excellence (or otherwise) as Foreign Secretary, however one of my father's favourite books which happened to be on one of his (my father's) favourite pastimes was that by Sir Edward on fly fishing.

On another matter - which might belong in the comments to a later posting of yours - no-one with a knowledge of the history of the German Empire could reasonably claim that our fighting WW1 was a waste of time. I would agree with the speculation that in 500 years time - if history is still studied - WW1 plus WW2 will be viewed as one war, fought by the world to prevent German hegemony, certainly in Europe and probably in the world. The constant pre-WW1 references among politicians and the General Staff in Germany to "Der Tag" - the day when Germany would attack the British Empire - is a pointer to what German policy was aimed and what the British decided to resist.

There is an argument to be made that we could, and should, have stayed out of WWI and proponents of that view point to the almost literally crippling cost to us in blood and treasure. It is, of course, one of those 'what if' debates that can never be settled for good and all. I think I will post on the subject later on because the principles involved are still with us today.


"There is an argument to be made . . . " Absolutely - that's what's so fascinating about "what if?". I won't try to preempt your posting on this one but I would say that it is arguable that, in the end, more blood and more treasure would have been spilled and spent if we had given Germany a free hand in Europe in 1914.

No, I'm not english (nor prussian). With my name and this awful english, it is not very difficult to see.
I'm spanish and also a reader of history, all kinds as long as the book is good. I´m quite interested in the Germany between wars (do you know the books by Sebastian Haffner?) and your recomendation seemed a good complement.
I'll try your suggestion and bargain with the dealers. Thank you again !

Ortego, I guessed you were Spanish but people appear here under a variety of names so it is best not to assume anything! No, I had not heard of Haffner but I have just 'Googled' him and he sounds very interesting particularly as he was a German who appears to have gained a shrewd insight into British political life. Thanks for the tip and please feel free to comment again.

Umbongo, stand-by, or leave the country, I am winding myself up for a post on the 'what ifs'!

The comments to this entry are closed.