The Admiralty, Popular Navalism, and the Journalist as Middleman, 1884-1914
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The three decades before the First World War were a period of intense militarism, and in the United Kingdom this meant navalism. By the late Edwardian period the navalist movement had captured Britain’s attention – a movement that paradoxically claimed the Royal Navy was weaker than at any point in its history while presiding over a total revolution in British naval technology and a concurrent unprecedented rise in naval budgets. This dissertation explores the creation, propagation, success and failure of directed navalism between 1884 and 1914. Directed navalism, for the purposes of this project, refers to the cooperation between and support of navalism among three elite national groups: serving naval officers at the level of captain and above (professionals), naval correspondents and editors working for large circulation national newspapers and periodicals (press), and members of Parliament in both houses, from backbenchers to high Cabinet-level officials, who dealt with navalist issues during the course of their public service careers (politicians). Directed navalism was the bedrock upon which the more popular and ultimately more successful ‘soft’ navalism – penny dreadfuls, the Navy League, fundraising drives, fleet reviews – was built. The three groups of professionals, press and (to a lesser extent, particularly before 1900) politicians purposefully created and fostered the navalist movement. Navalism meant different things to each of the three, obtainable via different methods, but from 1884 onward they were able to put aside their differences in service to a broader movement. This unofficial partnership remained effective through the majority of the Edwardian period, but after the twin upheavals of Liberal electoral victory and First Sea Lord Sir John (Jacky) Fisher’s naval reforms in 1906 it began to be overtaken by partisanship, factionalism, and a general radicalization of both public and parliamentary navalism. The rise and fall of directed navalism – the backroom deals, surreptitious leaks and midnight meetings that laid the foundation for a national movement – is the story of this dissertation. Though directed navalism collapsed before the First World War, it was extraordinarily successful in its time, and it was a necessary precursor for the creation of a national discourse in which ‘soft’ navalism could thrive.
Cesario, Bradley M (2016). The Admiralty, Popular Navalism, and the Journalist as Middleman, 1884-1914. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from