Bradley Cesario

Jun 17, 2021

New Crusade

The Royal Navy and British Navalism, 1884-1914

De Gruyter 2021

purchase at bookshop.org

In the years leading up to the First World War, a loose combination of serving naval officers, journalists, and politicians in Great Britain orchestrated a wave of support for the Royal Navy and an expanded, modernized fleet.

In New Crusade: The Royal Navy and British Navalism, 1884-1914 (De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2021), Bradley Cesario charts the emergence of this group, one whose efforts in many ways presaged the modern era of defense lobbying. Their efforts, as Cesario describes, were a reaction to the climate of fiscal restraint that suffused British politics in the early 1880s. To combat this, a motivated group of naval officers reached out to key members of the press to express their concerns, which triggered a series of alarming articles about the parlous state of British defense. 

Over the next two decades this group grew in effectiveness, finding allies in Parliament who pressured successive governments to focus more on naval reforms. This system of directed navalism reached its apogee during Admiral “Jacky” Fisher’s tenure as First Sea Lord in the 1900s, only to founder as a result of his infighting with his colleagues and rivals, which fractured the navalists into warring camps.

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