- Naval Warfare: A Global History since 1860 by Jeremy Black
In Naval Warfare: A Global History since 1860, noted military historian Jeremy Black turns his prodigious analytic gaze to provide a panoramic survey of modern naval warfare starting with the U.S. Civil War and ending today. His stated goals are to provide an "accessible account of modern naval warfare" (p. ix) as well as a "dynamic account of strategy and warfare" (p. ix) from a "global comparative perspective" (p. ix). In these articulated goals Black emphatically succeeds and admirably so. Through a series of nine chronologically oriented chapters of approximately twenty-year scope, Black does provide a dynamic and stimulating exploration of maritime conflict and strategy, examining the intersection of geopolitics, technology, and resources, as well as planning and force structure, in particular. Moreover, Black's scope is truly global—he does not restrict it to the major naval powers but examines many powers engaged in naval conflict, including in the Chinese Civil War, the Arab-Israeli Wars, and the Iran-Iraq War, among others. The study also explores the changing nature of naval war and maritime strategy since 1945 and particularly since the end of the Cold War. Finally, Black insightfully ponders future naval developments and potential challenges to naval power within the context of the geopolitical dimension of maritime power and possible future evolution of maritime strategy.
Overall, Black presents an intriguing and quite lucid exploration of maritime strategy, sea power, and naval development. The work begins with the emergence of modern steam-powered iron clad navies in the mid-nineteenth century and carries this examination inexorably and logically forward to contemporary times. In the process, Black explores operational, strategic, and force-development dimensions of naval planning within the context of national security policy-making. Given mounting maritime tensions in a number of global hot spots today, Black's insights into maritime warfare and naval strategy add to a rich existing corpus of study and knowledge and make the work required reading for all those interested in contemporary maritime conflicts and their potential evolution and ramifications.
In this regard, Naval Warfare is an uncommon work of naval history because it truly ought to appeal to a broad audience—not only naval historians and enthusiasts, but general readers, policy-makers, military personnel, strategists, planners, logisticians, etc., etc., the list goes on. [End Page 278] Moreover, throughout, Black provides deep and broad contextualization that is sometimes regrettably absent from other similar survey studies of naval history. Thus Black succeeds where other studies fail in providing his audience with a broad, contextualized, panoramic overview of naval warfare that incorporates myriad, diverse themes, including among others, piracy, policing the maritime commons, naval air power, and the politics of procurement, to name but a few of the diverse themes explored. In doing so, Black valuably examines some rather neglected aspects of naval conflict—the Chinese Civil War, for example, springs readily to mind—meanwhile all wrapped up within an engaging, well-paced narrative replete with interesting, and sometimes even downright quirky, details. In particular, Black ably illuminates the intrinsic complexity as well as the profound significance of naval warfare in global affairs over the last century and a half. As a result the reader can hardly be left in doubt about the contemporary centrality of naval power to international relations and the global balance of power as well as its enduring future relevance and importance.
Black concludes by posing some important, complex, deep, provocative, and thought-provoking questions and considerations about the future of navies as well as of sea power. These insightful conclusions include: the importance of naval adaptability as well as inter-service and international interoperability; the enduring strategic significance of naval and maritime power; the geographic implications of global warming on maritime power; the maritime ramifications of changing patterns of global trade; the impact of the growth of coastal cities; and the growing need to police the world's maritime commons, among many, many others. The breadth and succinctness of Black's synthesis is...