Friday, February 01, 2008

Land of hope and gloria

In The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery, Paul Kennedy, author of the classic Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, explores the overall utility of naval power through the case of Great Britain. The book is an excellent choice for students of international history and politics, but will disappoint those looking for stories of battles or naval lore.

Kennedy explores the role that geography, society, alliances and the utility of land power played in the various wars facing Britain from the 1600s to the 1900s. He argues that naval power was most valuable in the mercantile trade era and became less valuable in the industrial, except against island nations like Japan, and unfortunately enough, Britain. His successfully argues that naval power alone is defensive, but becomes valuable when combined with land power, but that the utility for a given power is dependent on the particular conditions in which it is being used.

The book will irritate navalists and those who want to learn more about the specifics of British naval history. Peter Padfield's Maritime Supremacy and the Opening of the Western Mind will appeal to those wanting more battle history, even if you don't buy his thesis of the interconnection between the small l liberal world and naval power.

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