Preparing for Blockade 1885-1914: Naval Contingency for Economic Warfare, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Preparing for Blockade 1885-1914

Naval Contingency for Economic Warfare, 1st Edition

By Stephen Cobb


374 pages

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Today, the First World War is remembered chiefly for the carnage of the Western Front, but at the time the Royal Navy's blockade of Germany was a more frequent source of debate. For, even at a time of war, there were influential voices in Britain who baulked at a concept of economic warfare that hindered the free passage of goods on the high seas, and brought German society to the brink of famine. To further our understanding of these issues, this book looks at the background to the blockade, and the effects of its implementation in 1914. It argues that there was a widely shared, but largely unwritten, strategic culture within British naval circles which accepted that in a war with a major maritime power the British response would be to attack enemy trade. This is demonstrated by the fact that from at least the late 1880s the Royal Navy planned for the use of armed merchantmen to enforce an economic blockade of an enemy. This it did by entering into detailed arrangements with major British shipping companies for the design and subsidy of liners with the potential for use as merchant cruisers, and stockpiling their prospective armament. In line with the contemporary, Corbettian, view that seapower depends upon free communications, the book concludes by asserting that the primary role of the Grand Fleet in the First World War was to guarantee the ability of the merchant cruisers on the Northern Patrol to interdict German seaborne trade, rather than to engage in large set-piece battles.


'Stephen Cobb has written a work that makes a fine contribution to the modern study of a subject that, despite its importance in World War I, is only now receiving the attention deserving of it.' Journal of Military History 'This book provides an important new perspective on British naval policy in the First World War era and is required reading for historians of the blockade. Supporters of a more ambitious definition of ’economic warfare’ would also be well advised to consider Cobb’s conclusions.' The Mariner’s Mirror '… a valuable contribution to the naval histories of the period.' The Naval Review

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword, Andrew Lambert; Preface; Strategy, planning and culture; The Naval Intelligence department; Economic warfare; Cruiser warfare; Professional debate; The provision of armed merchant cruisers, 1876-1900; The provision of armed merchant cruisers, 1900-1905; The 1906 ’grand manoeuvres’; The provision of armed merchant cruisers, 1906-1914; How did the experience of 1914-18 bear out war planning?; Appendices; Bibliography and sources; Index.

About the Series

Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series

Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series
The Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series is the publishing platform of the Corbett Centre. Drawing on the expertise and wider networks of the Defence Studies Department of King's College London, and based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College in the UK Defence Academy, the Corbett Centre is already a leading centre for academic expertise and education in maritime and naval studies. It enjoys close links with several other institutions, both academic and governmental, that have an interest in maritime matters, including the Developments, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), the Naval Staff of the Ministry of Defence and the Naval Historical Branch. The centre and its publishing output aims to promote the understanding and analysis of maritime history and policy and to provide a forum for the interaction of academics, policy-makers and practitioners. Books published under the eagis of the Corbett Centre series reflect these aims and provide an opportunity to stimulate research and debate into a broad range of maritime related themes. The core subject matter for the series is maritime strategy and policy, conceived broadly to include theory, history and practice, military and civil, historical and contemporary, British and international aspects. As a result this series offers a unique opportunity to examine key issues such as maritime security, the future of naval power, and the commercial uses of the sea, from an exceptionally broad chronological, geographical and thematic range. Truly interdisciplinary in its approach, the series welcomes books from across the humanities, social sciences and professional worlds, providing an unrivalled opportunity for authors and readers to enhance the national and international visibility of maritime affairs, and provide a forum for policy debate and analysis.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century