The Challenges of Command : The Royal Navy's Executive Branch Officers, 1880-1919 book cover
1st Edition

The Challenges of Command
The Royal Navy's Executive Branch Officers, 1880-1919

ISBN 9781138270824
Published September 9, 2016 by Routledge
304 Pages

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Book Description

In the period leading up to the First World War Britain's naval supremacy was challenged by an arms race with Germany, fuelled not only by military and geo-strategic rivalries, but an onrush of technological developments. As this book demonstrates, steam turbines, bigger guns, mechanical computing devices and ever increasing tonnage meant that the Royal Navy was forced to confront many long-cherished beliefs and sensitive social and political issues. By looking at key continuities over the period of 1880-1919 the study explores how the service and its officers attempted to deal with fundamental changes in professional requirements, and how cultural and social values underwent a transformation in the run up to the First World War. In particular the book looks at how the executive officer corps was presented with a revolution in naval affairs. As the Navy was transformed into an industrialized workplace, officers were challenged by an alteration in the 'culture of command' as arrangements carried over from the days of sail began to breakdown under the practical requirements of a steam and steel fleet. The book charts the ebb and flow of the debate and the various ideas put forward to deal with the structural challenges faced by the Royal Navy. The writings of reformers and commentators such as Fisher, Beresford, Corbett, Laughton and Mahan provide the background to the specific problems faced, and are analysed both in relation to the nature of the reforms implemented, and more crucially, the performance of the 'Senior Service' during the First World War.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Social change and the officer corps; The 19th-century officer corps; Threats to professional status; 'Oh, theses magicians and necromancers, they are ruining us' - the clash of sailors and engineers; The reinvention of the officer corps; History as a professional tool; Journals and staffs: organizational change; Auxilium ab alto - the experience of war; Conclusion; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.

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Robert L. Davison, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada.


'Davison’s account is always intriguing and throws a different light on some of the internal battles fought within the pre-1914 Royal Navy. It is a refreshing look at an old problem and highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the organizational development of the Royal Navy.' Mariner’s Mirror 'Davison’s analysis is original in conception, significant in substance, and made readily accessible through clear writing and well-structures exposition of argument... The Challenges of Command is a fine achievement that sets a high standard for future work in this area.' Canadian Journal of History 'We have been told often enough about the varied difficulties facing British society during the forty years or so before the outbreak of the First World war... What we have not had before is a study of how British naval executive officers reacted to the challenges; here Robert Davison enters a new and fertile area.' International Journal of Maritime History