After reading The Guns Of August a few years ago, looking at the start of World War I, someone recommended reading Dr. Kelly's book for continued study. Very good recommendation.
I knew little of the German navy and absolutely nothing about Admiral Von Tirpitz. Thanks to this wonderful book, I know a whole lot more.
Kelly avoids a trap found in many biographies, he does not make it into a hagiography. He makes a very convincing argument that this career navy man was a brilliant politician who knew he needed the Reichstag's approval to build his navy. He covers Tirpitz's work with the Torpedo Gang thoroughly and follows Tirpitz through the rest of his career.
Particularly wonderful was the way Kelly would back off the narrative and summarize/clarify various points he recently covered. It is an extremely effective tool and it really helped me understand what was going on.
Particularly fascinating is Kelly's coverage of Tirpitz after the war broke out. Tirpitz' policies during the war were controversial and Kelly does not duck anything in his coverage of them.
Sometimes it is hard in a book like this to separate the writer versus the subject. As I read this book, I kept thinking that in the hands of another writer, this could have been a very very dry and boring book. That is was not is testimony to Kelly's writing.
Patrick Kelly's Tirpitz and the Imperial German Navy is, without qualification, a work of outstanding history. Kelly adroitly analyzes the life of Alfred Tirpitz in relation to the rise of the Wilhelmian German navy. His ability to clearly explain the political background and nuances in which Tirpitz operated allows not only professional historians, but also lay readers, to appreciate the circumstances of German naval growth prior to World War I. Even more impressive is Kelly's consistently fair and incisive analysis of the Grand Admiral. By the book's conclusion, readers are left with an intelligent framework in which to place and evaluate him.
Balancing the work of previous historians and, more significantly, integrating numerous primary (often German) sources, Kelly provides a work that should prove difficult to challenge. Of course, any book focusing on the German Empire prior to World War I will naturally offer insight, however indirectly, on the factors that led to war. Tirpitz and the Imperial German Navy is no exception.
Whether you read Patrick Kelly's historical masterpiece to appreciate the paradoxical triumph and failure of one of the German Empire's most important figures or, rather, to reach a more sophisticated understanding of how German actions might have contributed to the First World War makes no difference. In either case, to interested students of history, Tirpitz and the Imperial German Navy will not disappoint!