Review :-‘The British Way of War: Julian Corbett and the battle for a national strategy’ by A. Lambert

By Matthew S. Seligmann, published May 2022

Abstract

It used once to be said of the Royal Navy in the first two decades of the twentieth century – a period generally known as the Fisher era, after prominent First Sea Lord Admiral Sir John ‘Jacky’ Fisher, the driving force behind British naval policy for most of those years – that it was a service dominated by material considerations. Fisher, it was argued, was superb at forcing the pace of technology to design new, bigger, better, and ever more expensive vessels for the navy, but perversely did not devote much thought to creating a strategy for using them. This materialist interpretation, although holding sway for many years, has not gone unchallenged. Recently, a small clique of revisionist historians have turned this argument on its head. Fisher, they argue, has been totally misunderstood. Far from being strategically sterile, he was, in fact, an innovator who inaugurated sweeping naval revolutions that reorientated the Royal Navy away from traditional strategies of decisive battle in favour of a radical form of sea control backed by an extreme conception of economic warfare. That these plans had never previously been spotted was because they had been so secret that Fisher not only kept them from his fellow officers, but he also had to hide them from his political masters and even from posterity. This created the bizarre situation where the absence of evidence for any of these supposed revolutions was dismissed as a systematic cover up, while the existence of inconvenient counterevidence – including a mass of documents pointing in other directions – became proof of a deliberate smokescreen to hide the truth…

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Filed under: Twentieth Century
Subjects include: Administration | Strategy & Diplomacy

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