Power at Sea - Vol. 1

Power at Sea - Vol. 1

Power at Sea - Vol. 1

Power at Sea - Vol. 1


The twentieth century was preeminently an age of warring states and collapsing empires. Industrialism brought not peace but the sword. And the tip of that sword was sea power. In Power at Sea, Lisle A. Rose gives us an unprecedented narrative assessment of modern sea power, how it emerged from the Age of Fighting Sail, how it was employed in war and peace, and how it has shaped the life of the human community over the past century and a quarter. In this first volume, Rose recalls the early twentieth-century world of emerging, predatory industrial nations engaging in the last major scramble for global markets and empire. In such times, an imposing war fleet was essential to both national security and international prestige. Battleship navies became pawns of power politics, and between 1890 and 1914 four of them?Britain's Royal Navy, the Imperial German Navy, the Japanese Navy, and the U. S. Navy'set the tone and rhythm of international life. Employing a global canvas, Rose portrays the increasingly frantic naval race between Britain and Germany that did so much to bring about the First World War; he takes us aboard America's Great White Fleet as it circumnavigated the world between 1907 and 1909, leaving in its wake both goodwill and jealousy; he details Japan's growing naval and military power and the hunger for unlimited expansion that resulted. Important naval battles were fought in those days of ostensible peace, and Rose brings to life the encounters of still young and relatively small industrial fighting fleets at Manila Bay and Tsushima. He also takes us into the huge naval factories where the engines of war were forged. He invites us aboard the imperial battleships and battle cruisers, exploring the dramatically divided worlds of the officers' lordly wardroom with its clublike atmosphere and the often foul and fetid enlisted men's quarters. The Age of Navalism climaxed in the epic First World War Battle of Jutland, in which massive guns and maneuvering dreadnoughts determined that Imperial Germany would become the latest in a line of ambitious naval powers that failed to shake Britannia's rule of the waves. Germany's subsequent use of a revolutionary new strategy, unrestricted submarine warfare, nearly brought Britain to its knees, reduced the level of naval combat to barbarism, and brought the United States into the war with its own substantial navy, ultimately turning the tide of battle. Focusing as much on social issues and technological advances as on combat, The Age of Navalism tells a compelling story of newfound power that is fascinating in its own right. Yet, it is merely a prologue to more startling accounts contained in the author's succeeding volumes.


The century just past was preeminently an age of warring states and collapsing empires. Industrialism brought not peace but the sword. and the tip of that sword was sea power.

A hundred years ago, great war fleets from half a dozen nations—Britain, the United States, Germany, Russia, France, Japan—roamed the world ocean or rode at anchor, their national ensign displayed in every great port city from New York to Shanghai. They wore no sails, these representatives of proud peoples who beamed upon them. Their graceless hulls and blocky upper works were made of steel now, like the long-range guns that expressed their might. They were propelled through the water not by wind but by great propulsive machinery, engines that seemed the very epitome of the new industrial age. the greatest of the new battleships were adopted by schoolchildren, and their comings and goings often attracted large throngs.

The men who owned them were volatile masters who preached and practiced imperial competition from one end of the earth to the other. Most reveled in an endless game of great-power politics defined by amoral diplomacy in which fighting fleets were the chief expressions of national greatness and purpose. the dispatch of a cruiser to some distant, barely known Mexican or Moroccan bay or the appearance of a small fleet or even a gunboat in a Chinese port or upriver was enough to shift fragile, constantly calibrated and recalibrated balances of power and prestige.

Between 1890 and 1914, Britain, Imperial Germany, Japan, and the United States were or became preeminent naval powers, and their fleets often set the tone and rhythm of international affairs. Other countries, notably Italy, France, and czarist Russia, might have joined them. But whereas Italian warship design and even naval theories were characterized by “great ingenuity,” other factors, principally “lack of capital and raw materials,” the geographic disadvantage of being confined to the Mediterranean, and lack of technological sophistication . . .

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