Technological Change and the United States Navy, 1865–1945 (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology)

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9780801864865: Technological Change and the United States Navy, 1865–1945 (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology)
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Navies have always been technologically sophisticated, from the ancient world's trireme galleys and the Age of Sail's ships-of-the-line to the dreadnoughts of World War I and today's nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. Yet each large technical innovation has met with resistance and even hostility from those officers who, adhering to a familiar warrior ethos, have grown used to a certain style of fighting. In Technological Change and the United States Navy, William M. McBride examines how the navy dealt with technological change―from the end of the Civil War through the "age of the battleship"―as technology became more complex and the nation assumed a global role. Although steam engines generally made their mark in the maritime world by 1865, for example, and proved useful to the Union riverine navy during the Civil War, a backlash within the service later developed against both steam engines and the engineers who ran them. Early in the twentieth century the large dreadnought battleship at first met similar resistance from some officers, including the famous Alfred Thayer Mahan, and their industrial and political allies. During the first half of the twentieth century the battleship exercised a dominant influence on those who developed the nation's strategies and operational plans―at the same time that advances in submarines and fixed-wing aircraft complicated the picture and undermined the battleship's superiority.

In any given period, argues McBride, some technologies initially threaten the navy's image of itself. Professional jealousies and insecurities, ignorance, and hidebound traditions arguably influenced the officer corps on matters of technology as much as concerns about national security, and McBride contends that this dynamic persists today. McBride also demonstrates the interplay between technological innovation and other influences on naval adaptability―international commitments, strategic concepts, government-industrial relations, and the constant influence of domestic politics. Challenging technological determinism, he uncovers the conflicting attitudes toward technology that guided naval policy between the end of the Civil War and the dawning of the nuclear age. The evolution and persistence of the "battleship navy," he argues, offer direct insight into the dominance of the aircraft-carrier paradigm after 1945 and into the twenty-first century.

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Winner, Engineer-Historian Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers

From steam engines to dreadnought battleships to aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered submarines, each large technical innovation in the U.S. Navy has met with resistance and even hostility from those officers who have grown used to a certain style of fighting. William M. McBride examines how the navy dealt with technological change―from the end of the Civil War through the "age of the battleship"―as technology became more complex and the nation assumed a global role.

"This masterly study of the interaction between technological change and service politics in the U.S. Navy deserves to become a standard work."―Sir Michael Howard, former Regius Professor of Modern History, Oxford University

"This fine study explores the dynamics through which American naval officers have interacted with technological change."―Journal of Military History

"An intellectual history of American naval technology that examines the dominance of the battleship mentality... Thought-provoking, a book sure to spark debate."―Technology and Culture

"One could say this is yet another book about the rise and fall of the battleship as the centerpiece of naval power. But what sets the author's subtle work apart from earlier histories is his purpose. He sets out neither to defame nor defend naval leaders... [A] well-balanced analysis."―U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings

William M. McBride is a professor of history at the U.S. Naval Academy and former inaugural Shaeffer Distinguished Humanist at James Madison University.

About the Author:

William M. McBride is a professor of history at the U.S. Naval Academy and former inaugural Shaeffer Distinguished Humanist at James Madison University.

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9780801898181: Technological Change and the United States Navy, 1865–1945 (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology)

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