British Empire Books

History of Warships

AuthorJames L. George
PublisherNaval Institute Press (US)
Constable and Company Ltd (UK)
ISBN No.0094797005

"Another lesson sometimes forgotten is that while the introduction of new weaponry was significant, the impact was usually temporary and any advantage quickly dissipated by the enemy copying, adapting, or countering the new weapon systems..."

HMS Warrior
HMS Warrior, the first Ironclad
Although this book does not exclusively concern the Royal Navy, the importance of seapower to Britain ensures that the Royal Navy receives extensive coverage in this book. The book itself covers the entire history of sea power from Greek triremes down to Aircraft carriers and submarines. The book is extremely well organised and succinct in its analysis of naval developments. What was the first cruiser? When were torpedoes first employed? How did destroyers change their roles over time? All of these questions and many many more can be answered in this book. In fact, this book is a wonderful introduction to many of the most important concepts in warship design over the centuries. The book does not go in to too much detail, but this is actually a blessing rather than a drawback. It allows the reader to gain an overview of the entire history of warship development. Which is quite an achievement in such an approachable and readable way.

We see how propulsion has been the defining technology behind nearly all ships, far more important even than the weaponry that they have carried. The division of the history of warship design in to meaningful eras of technology is a great asset. I also appreciated the explanations behind the various types of ships: the difference between a cruiser and a battleship, or of a destroyer and frigate. These are fundamental questions, but ones that are all too frequently 'assumed' by authors. For those who want to start to delve in to the history of this fascinating subject, this book is an excellent starting point.

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by Stephen Luscombe