British Cruisers of the Victorian Era by Norman Friedman

By Norman Friedman

Progressively evolving from crusing frigates, the 1st smooth cruiser isn't effortless to outline, yet this booklet starts off with the earliest steam paddle warships, covers the evolution of screw-driven frigates, corvettes and sloops, after which the succeeding iron, composite and steel-hulled sessions all the way down to the final armoured cruisers.

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British numbers were set by the number of places that had to be covered. It did not take large numbers of potential Russian (or, for that matter, French) raiders to force up the size of the ships the Royal Navy had to deploy in the Far East, hence the cost of the Royal Navy. The number of vulnerable focal areas increased as the French and the Russians gained bases outside the area the Royal Navy could expect to dominate. Just before the turn of the century the French seem to have been particularly keenly aware that building limited numbers of armoured cruisers would place intolerable financial burdens on the Royal Navy.

Now colonies, except for India and connections further east, became less important economically, particularly after slavery (which had made Caribbean sugar production lucrative) was abolished in the British Empire. Trade itself coupled with manufacturing became much more important. As the centre of the industrial revolution, Britain had goods the world increasingly wanted. The British Government increasingly saw free trade as key to national prosperity. The British Government adopted free trade policies, abandoning protective tariffs.

The Treaty of Paris might even be read as abandonment of blockade. The British surrendered their ‘ancient right’ to seize enemy cargo carried in neutral ships. It seemed that shipowners could protect themselves in wartime simply by fleeing to other flags (as many did in 1914). Many in the Royal Navy thought this abandonment of the ancient rights of the maritime power had rendered sea power almost pointless. The treaty also limited what goods could legitimately be interdicted, food being an important exception.

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