Thursday, December 23, 2010

The long history of the Royal Navy - the end?

The Binge Thinking History Podcast (BTHP) has told the history of the British Navy in nine installments. This week came out the last chapter, which takes the narrative through the 20th century. (feed)

It is called 1914 to the decline of empire and this surely covers both time and theme, however, within the story lies also the decline of navy and the rise of air force. Host Tony Cocks, in his familiar attractive narration, explains how the Royal Navy loses its grip on the waves, not only as the Empire recedes and the Americans take their place as hegemon. New technologies also require different tactics.

So far the history has been one of steadily larger ships, but with the advent of submarines, the Navy sees what it has seen through the years. Even if big battleships are powerful, sometimes it is more effective to have a number of small ships in stead of one biggie. Especially small and rapid ships give the dynamics a powerful navy needs. But then aircraft enter into the mix and this not only renders ships vulnerable from a new angle, it also reduces the navy's capacity to isolate harbors from trade. It is air force that will decide a hegemon's capacity to choke an opponent - no longer the navy.

More BTHP:
The Royal Navy vs. Napoleon and post-Napoleon,
James Cook and a famous mutiny,
The Royal Navy and the Seven Year War,
Britannia Rules the Waves,
Royal Navy.
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