Book Review: Jutland: World War I’s Greatest Naval Battle


by Michael Epkenhans, Jörg Hillman, & Frank Nägler, editors

Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2015. Pp. xii, 398. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $50.00. ISBN: 0813166055

A Revisionist Look at Jutland

Over a dozen scholars from Germany, Britain, and Australia, take a fresh look at the epic battleship fight in 1916. The book opens with an introduction reminding us that much of the earlier work on the battle has been almost totally from British sources, even works in German. There follow eleven papers on that touch upon various subjects related to the battle.

So we get a look at the evolution of Anglo-German naval rivalry, German operational and strategic planning before the war, British perceptions of how the war at sea would unfold versus the realities of modern naval operations, and the war as experienced by each of the fleets through the eve of Jutland. The battle itself is covered in two chapters, one on each side’s perception of the events, with the German account quite long and interesting. There then follow several chapters on how the battle was interpreted and commemorated, including one on Jutland as depicted in German film.

There are a number of interesting and thought provoking conclusions, including an interesting discussion of how early in the war the two fleets seriously misunderstood each other, the British thinking the Germans were itching for a fight, while the Germans were more concerned with dominating the Baltic and cutting down the British edge in numbers. Among other surprises is the idea that the British failed to fully exploit their success at decryption of German communications. Some essays look at the evolution of the historiography of the battle and the question of who “won” and why, reflecting domestic politics, and there is some interesting material on memory and memorialization, and a chapter on the battle in German film.

This is a very valuable work for anyone interested in Jutland or in war at sea.

Note: A volume in the UPK series “Foreign Military Studies”, Jutland is also available as a pdf, ISBN 978-0-8131-6606-3, and an e-book, ISBN 978-0-8131-6607-0.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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