Book Review-‘Colonial Naval Culture and British Imperialism, 1922–67’ by D. O. Spence
In the Oxford History of the British Empire, published in 1999, Barry M. Gough suggested that ‘the general linkage of navy to empire continues to escape historians’. Since this statement, little appears to have changed, and the oceanic nature of the British Empire is rarely acknowledged for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Furthermore, very few studies of the navy have engaged with the cultural turn, as Daniel Owen Spence highlights in his new book. Of these, nearly all are Eurocentric, or at least ‘whites only’. Here naval history is somewhat behind military history, where studies of colonial soldiers are rather more advanced. This new study goes some way to rectify this omission, at least for the end of empire. Indeed, in going beyond the metropole into the periphery, Spence is able to show that colonial navies were far from a ‘whites only affair’, but were ‘inextricably linked to British preoccupations about their imperial status’ (p. 4). As such, this book offers an important new perspective on the empire and navy on the brink of decolonization..