The Royal Navy in the Age of Austerity, 1919-1922
Naval and Foreign Policy under Lloyd George
Bloomsbury Academic 2016
Great Britain’s victory in the First World War brought with it the competing challenges of defending an expanded empire while reducing military expenditures. In The Royal Navy in the Age of Austerity, 1919-22: Naval and Foreign Policy under Lloyd George (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016), Harry Bennett details how British policymakers responded to the quandary that the postwar strategic and political situation posed to them. Though triumphant against the German High Seas Fleet, the British faced the prospect of a new naval arms race against the United States and Japan at a time when the British electorate sought cuts in wartime levels of taxes and spending and the reduction in naval construction threatened to add to the problem of industrial unemployment. With divergent demands on domestic, naval and strategic policy, the Lloyd George government sought to resolve their dilemma with their participation in the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-22, which established limits on the tonnage of capital ships that effectively mitigated against construction sprees while maintaining a degree of warship-building capacity. As Bennett demonstrates, the decisions taken during this period not only shaped policy for years afterward but determined events in the Second World War, offering lessons about the intersection of politics, strategy, and policy formulation that remain valuable today.