The Price of Admiralty: The Evolution of Naval Warfare Paperback – 1 Jan 1990
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About the Author
Sir John Desmond Patrick Keegan (1934 2012), was one of the most distinguished contemporary military historians and was for many years the senior lecturer at Sandhurst (the British Royal Military Academy) and the defense editor of the "Daily Telegraph" (London). Keegan was the author of numerous books including "The Face of Battle," "The Mask of Command," "The Price of Admiralty," " Six Armies in Normandy," and "The Second World War," and was a fellow at the Royal Society of Literature."
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Top Customer Reviews
So why four stars? Because the four chapters are too short. The Atlantic convoys chapter is seventy-odd pages... I would have liked the book to be longer, with even more detail; but as an overview, it cannot be faulted. The final chapter gives you Keegan's (1988) views on the future of war at sea - still pretty valid, as far as I'm concerned.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
However, `The Price of Admiralty'- with its soaring prose, penetrating gaze, and inescapable logic - is a classic in the canon of naval history. Keegan is an unconventional historian who offers an original thesis on naval warfare not by assessing the gains of victorious navies, but rather through the emerging trends in each era. In this sense, it is more than straight history. `Admiralty' is a compass point for the future.
Keegan explores the meaning of the term `command of the seas' and strives to discern whether any navy throughout history could lay claim to it. The influence of technology on the outcome of the four major battles covered in the book - Trafalgar, Jutland, Midway, and the Battle of the Atlantic - is demonstrated, to great effect.
Perhaps the most important contribution of `The Price of Admiralty' is its implicit exhortation to think beyond the present and into the future. Through the examples of four naval engagements, Keegan demonstrates the grasp governments had on developing technology, and how this affected war aims. Keegan's conclusions point to the necessity of `thinking outside of the box' and applying the emerging technological trends to war on the high seas. Have we run aground on outdated and outmoded strategy? Or will we think ahead to battles not yet fought, and train future captains in forward-thinking tactics?
This is a remarkable book and a worthy successor to the works of Alfred Thayer Mahan.
While all 4 battles are famous examples of their type, Keegan seems to waffle between choosing battles that were decisive and those that were stalemates. Trafalgar was a decisive battle, but it was unusual in the Age of Sail that one navy enjoyed such a complete victory over its enemy. Alternatively, Jutland was a large battle, but the battle itself was a tactical draw in that both sides left the battle with their proportionate strengths intact. A far more decisive ironclad battle occurred at Tsushima Bay, so why didn't Keegan choose that (admitedly less famous) battle instead?
The remaining two battles are from WWII - Midway and the Battle of the Atlantic. Midway was a clear U.S. victory, and the purest example of carrier-based naval conflict. The Battle of the Atlantic was ultimately decisive as well, but due to the seesaw of technological advancess, the outcome was very much in doubt for 4 years. Although the submarines lost the Battle of the Atlantic, Keegan concludes submarines are the ultimate naval weapon available today, and points to the success of the U.S. submarine offensive against Japan. If that is his conclusion, why not give an account of the Japan-U.S. conflict instead of the Battle of the Atlantic?
This is nitpicking, however. The strength of the book is the masterful analysis of each individual battle. While I question the overall theme and choice of battles, each chapter in and of itself is fantastic. Therefore, it gets 4 stars, as it is inferior to Keegan's Face of Battle and Mask of Command in maintaining an overarching theme.
Keegan excels in presenting clear and concise descriptions. For land-lubbers like me it was indeed pleasant not to be burdened with a lot of nautical terms which one expects with naval stuff.
Keegan also excels in analysis and comparative studies. In this work you get a pretty good picture of how naval technology has developed from 1805 to 1945. Some generalizations are no doubt present, and for those more knowledgeable than myself in naval warfare I leave to them the details of correcting those mistakes.
For the general reader of this subject this is a great work, and in keeping with Keegan's studies on warfare. This and his early work The Face of Battle completely revolutionized how warfare could be studied. Many since have used the systematic approach that Keegan first devised in these ground-breaking works.
Keegan does not provide the minute detail on these battles that some might desire, but there is good, solid research and thought provoking statements on how each enegagement was unique for its time and place. He provides a chronological study of the development of warfare and shows us that examples from past and present each have their place in the understanding of military science. Even after 20 years, Keegan's work remains as fresh today as it down when first introduced. This is a classic study which will always have a place on one's shelf. Highly recommneded for the general reader as well as military history buff.
In "The Price of Admiralty," Keegan recounts the pinacle events of two naval eras--Trafalgar at the height of wooden ships and sail; and Jutland at the peak of iron ships and steam. He then delves into the two transformational events leading to the next two eras of sea warfare--carrier-based air power at Midway; and the advent of effective submarine operations in the Battle of the Atlantic.
Describing the constriction of surface ships between the "upper pincer of the aircraft carrier and the lower of the submarine," Keegan points to the future competition between carriers and subs. Although it is not clear which platform will come to predominate in the future, Keegan makes a strong argument that tomorrow's sea actions will belong to the submarine.
There is rich detail among the pages of "The Price of Admiralty," and, like other Keegan masterpieces ("The Mask of Command," and "The Face of Battle"), this work will stand the test of time.
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