Book Review: Technological Change and the United States Navy, 1865-1945


by William M. McBride

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2000.. xiii, 333. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $51.95. ISBN:0-8018-6486-0

An excellent survey of how the U.S. Navy adapted to changing technology, and how technological change in turn shaped the Navy. The focus is on particularly stressful technologies, including steam power, the battleship, electrical propulsion, submarines, and aviation, though the difficulties involved in the introduction of radio are overlooked, and the author displays an unreasonable affection for rigid airships. There are some good word portraits of a number of the critical players, notable William Sims. On the whole, the author presents a balanced picture, demonstrating that many of the debates about technology – even that over the airplane versus the battleship – were far more nuanced than the frequent portrayal of “progressive” officers struggling with “reactionaries.”
Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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