Rules for Counting Warships, 1861–1993

  • George Modelski
  • William R. Thompson


In the late 1850s, the wooden ship-of-the-line was quickly transformed into a naval dinosaur by the development and application of explosive shells and armour-clad battleships. But there was nothing equally rapid about the transition from the first armour-clad ships to the development of something resembling a standardised battleship. The trial-and-error experimentation of the period 1859–90 is truly a comparativist’s nightmare. Wooden hulls and masts were retained even while shipbuilders raced to create thicker hulls and heavier guns. Iron plating gave way to steel ships. At one point torpedoes, mines and ramming tactics, resurrected from the galley era, seemed likely to slow down the construction race but the interlude was only temporary as ships continued to grow in terms of tonnage displacement and firepower.


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Copyright information

© George Modelski and William R. Thompson 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Modelski
    • 1
  • William R. Thompson
    • 2
  1. 1.University of WashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Claremont Graduate SchoolUSA

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