The Great Naval Race: The Anglo-German Naval Rivalry, 1900-1914

The Great Naval Race: The Anglo-German Naval Rivalry, 1900-1914

The Great Naval Race: The Anglo-German Naval Rivalry, 1900-1914

The Great Naval Race: The Anglo-German Naval Rivalry, 1900-1914

Excerpt

The First World War was catalyst for the horrors of the twentieth century. On this the historical record is clear: Bolshevism emerged in the wake of Russian defeat by German armies, Nazism after German defeat by the western Allies, and in part as response to Bolshevism; hence the Second World War, followed by the division of Europe in the Cold War. Between them Bolshevism and Nazism were responsible for human depravity unparalleled in scale, although not in incidence, throughout history. The western Allies were not guiltless of planned atrocity against civilians.

It is neither possible nor useful to speculate in what different ways the century might have unravelled had the first war not started when and how it did. Yet it is of fundamental historical importance to consider who started it and why, for the question has been muddied by propaganda and special pleading, and there is still no consensus among historians. So eminent a figure as Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War at Oxford University, has failed to provide a satisfactory answer in his otherwise superb recent book and television series, The First World War. One reason, evident from his source notes, is neglect of the naval element, a symptom of the grotesque undervaluation of naval history in university faculties throughout the AngloAmerican world.

This allows him to state that Admiral Tirpitz, chief of German naval construction, recognized in his 'calmer moments' that his fleet was above all a deterrent. This it never was. Volker Berghahn, whose meticulous study, Der Tirpitz Plan, is a principal source for the German side of the story I have told here, makes it plain that from the beginning Tirpitz conceived his battle fleet as an instrument to smash through the British fleet in order to . . .

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