Mahan: The Life and Work of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, U.S.N.

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter XVI The British Naval Program

IN late December, 1888, the London Times declared that the year just ending had been one of unusual activity in naval construction. "A new era of naval rivalry seems to have begun."

When Mahan's first book was published in England the British Admiralty was fully engaged in an augmented and accelerated shipbuilding program, started in the spring of 1889. According to Lord George Hamilton's statement to the House of Commons, this program was based on the principle that the naval establishment of Great Britain must "at least be equal to the naval strength of any two other countries." It called for eight first-class battleships, two second-class battleships, nine first-class cruisers, thirty- three smaller cruisers, eighteen torpedo boats, seventy ships with a total tonnage of three hundred and eighteen thousand --all scheduled for completion within four and a half years. Therefore, it is not correct to say that publication of Mahan's book started the intense revival in the British fleet in the early 'nineties.

The cause of European naval expansion was more fundamental. The nations of Europe had become energized by imperialism. Henry M. Stanley had just arrived in London after crossing the African Continent from east to west and extending the territory explored by Livingston. Salisbury was Prime Minister, busily engaged in the negotiations with France and Germany that partitioned the Dark Continent. Joseph Chamberlain was not yet Colonial Minister but was supporting Salisbury in the House of Commons. Cecil Rhodes had just become Prime Minister of Cape Colony and was dreaming of a Cape-to-Cairo railway. The unification

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