Book Review – ‘Militarism in a Global Age: Naval ambitions in Germany and the United States before World War I’ by Dirk Bönker

By Matthew S. Seligmann, published October 2020


Naval histories of the immediate pre-First World War era often focus predominantly on the great Anglo-German naval race, a decade and a half long competition in maritime force accumulation that by virtue of its iconographic status, longevity, bitterness and ultimate culmination in conflict has cast an overwhelming shadow over the period. While there is certainly ample justification for the interest in this topic, an interest which has led to many innovative and exciting analyses, it is nevertheless clear that too exclusive a focus upon it must be to the detriment of other important areas within this broader field. It is, therefore, to be welcomed that Dirk Bönker’s major new examination of the naval history of this period breaks away from this well trodden path to offer a new and original glimpse at alternative aspects of the naval development of this age. It does this in several ways. First, there is its angle of approach. Conceptually, this book is focused not on the material aspects of naval history, that is navies and the people and policies that drive them, but rather on navalism, that is the intellectual and ideological conceptualization of maritime force, the understanding of the ways in which it can be generated, the theory of the uses to which it can be put, the analysis of the apparent consequences of having it or not having it and the principles articulated for deploying it in the most appropriate manner. In short, it is the role and power of an idea that is being investigated here: the meaning and allure of sea power….

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Filed under: Nineteenth Century | Twentieth Century
Subjects include: Navies | Strategy & Diplomacy

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