Naval Warfare, 1815-1914

By Lawrence Sondhaus | Go to book overview

Preface

From the era of Napoleon and Lord Nelson to the naval arms races before the First World War, naval warfare underwent a slow transition from the era of the wooden sailing fleet to that of the modern steel navy. Certain developments during the century of change are fairly well known to scholars and students of history, such as the emergence of the “monitor” design in the American Civil War and the “dreadnought” battleship during the eight years before the First World War. Yet, for most, the evolution of warships and naval warfare from 1815 to 1914 (or at least to 1906) remains shrouded in mystery, along with most of the naval engagements of the period.

This study will attempt to leave the reader with a better appreciation of the technological breakthroughs in steam propulsion, armor plate, artillery, and torpedoes that brought changes not only to warship design, but also to naval strategy and tactics. The rivalries of the naval powers, their wars and expeditions, will be investigated with special attention to the evolving state of naval technology. The three leading naval powers of the century-Britain, France, and Russia-naturally will receive the greatest coverage, but the study will also address the decline after 1815 of the Spanish and Dutch navies, as well as the rise before 1914 of German, Japanese, and American sea power. Smaller navies such as the Italian and Austrian, which in 1866 fought the only fleet-scale action of the century between 1805 and 1905, will receive attention where appropriate, along with the navies of the Ottoman empire, China, and the leading South American countries.

The task of writing a general history of this length compels the author to make hard choices as to what not to include, as it is, of course, impossible to provide exhaustive coverage of the entire period. The mandate being one of writing a work on naval warfare, discussion of matters related to naval personnel, including comparisons in training, education, promotion policies, and so forth, has been reduced dramatically or omitted altogether, unless it has such a direct bearing on the performance of a navy in war as to warrant inclusion as part of the explanation of the outcome of that conflict. Description of factors in the economy, industry, domestic politics, and international diplomacy bearing upon naval developments likewise has been kept to the minimum necessary to

-vii-

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Naval Warfare, 1815-1914
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Plates vi
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter One - The Twilight of Sail, 1815-30 1
  • Notes 24
  • Chapter Two - Continuity and Change, 1830-50 27
  • Chapter Three - The 1850s 55
  • Chapter Four - The Ironclad Revolution 73
  • Notes 104
  • Chapter Five - The 1870s 108
  • Chapter Six - The Jeune école 139
  • Chapter Seven - The Rebirth of the Battleship 160
  • Chapter Eight - The Dreadnought and the Origins of the First World War 197
  • Chapter Nine - Reflections on Deterrence 225
  • Bibliography 230
  • Index 237
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