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Reviewed by:
  • Power at Sea: The Age of Navalism, 1890–1918, and: Power at Sea: The Breaking Storm, 1919–1945, and: Power at Sea: A Violent Peace, 1946–2006
  • Kathleen Broome Williams
Power at Sea: The Age of Navalism, 1890–1918. By Lisle A. Rose . Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2007. ISBN 0-8262-1683-0. Maps. Photographs. Illustration. Notes. Selected bibliography. Index. Pp. xxiii, 355. $49.95.
Power at Sea: The Breaking Storm, 1919–1945. By Lisle A. Rose . Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2007. ISBN 0-8262-1694-6. Maps. Photographs. Notes. Selected bibliography. Index. Pp. xvi, 514. $59.95.
Power at Sea: A Violent Peace, 1946–2006. By Lisle A. Rose . Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2007. ISBN 0-8262-1695-3. Maps. Photographs. Notes. Selected bibliography. Index. Pp. xviii, 371. $49.95.

Sea power has been the tip of the sword in the conflict-riven industrial and nuclear ages, Lisle Rose contends, and is, therefore, at the heart of modern history. In three volumes spanning the decades from the 1890s to 2006 he explains how this is so and why. While his perspective is mostly Anglo-American, Rose takes a hard-eyed look at where power really lies and is generally even-handed in his criticism of the navies he discusses. With a strong narrative and persuasive analysis, each volume stands on its own. Together they represent a sweeping view of modern maritime developments worldwide that is unequaled in the literature to date. An accomplished historian, Rose brings to these books a lifetime of involvement in maritime affairs and a decade of dedicated research.

Volume I opens with the dawn of industrial navies in the last years of the nineteenth century and ends with the conclusion of the First World War. The "new cult of navalism" (vol. 1, p. 148) defines the era, according to Rose, and shapes international political, diplomatic, technological, economic, and social developments. Thus navalism is key to the catastrophe of World War I. In this volume, as in the other two, Rose makes his case for the pivotal role of navies by examining the context in which they operated. Focusing on the world's four main naval powers—Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States—he covers the pervasive influence of Mahan on naval strategy and the creation of modern fleets, and the build-up to World War I and its course.

Volume 2, covering the period from the end of World War I to the end of World War II, deals with interwar containment of naval power, rising international friction, continuing naval developments in Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States, and the course of the global war at sea from 1939 to 1945. Two issues dominate this volume and provide essential links to the survival of sea power in the next: the mission of naval air and the mission of submarine and antisubmarine warfare.

The thrust of Volume 3 (1946–2006) is the search for a strategic role for sea power in the nuclear age. The change to atomic power, jet aircraft, and guided missiles plays out in the context of the Cold War where the United States is the supreme naval force and Russia the main adversary but where armies and air forces appear to hold the key to military power. Finally, Rose tackles post–Cold War questions involving the relevance and role of naval forces in low-intensity warfare and in a terrorist world. He concludes that, unique among naval forces, the U.S. Navy has made itself indispensable by its ability to project power from the sea deep into landmasses by carrier-launched aircraft and surface vessel- and submarine-launched missiles. This, he contends, is the lesson of Afghanistan and the second Gulf War. After describing the state of other navies and dismissing China as a naval threat in the foreseeable future, Rose concludes that U.S. naval supremacy remains unchallenged in the world today.

Based on the best available scholarship these three clearly written and entertaining volumes are much more than a reiteration of familiar views. They are informed by the author's strong opinions and his sometimes pitiless [End Page 1255] judgments. Rose does not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-7795
Print ISSN
0899-3718
Pages
pp. 1254-1256
Launched on MUSE
2007-10-23
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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