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Sea Power in the 1920s

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Abstract

The scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow on 21 June 1919 was an appropriate symbol of the ending of an era: the age of European control of the oceans. For five centuries, sea power had been exercised almost exclusively by European nations, as the instrument and the expression of their mercantile, and later their territorial, expansion throughout the globe. The cataclysm of the First World War, however, not only destroyed the old order of Europe, but it also ended the global hegemony of the European powers. In 1914 major fleets were operated by six European Great Powers; only two non-European nations, Japan and the United States, operated significant naval forces, and these were on a small scale. Moreover, of the European Great Powers, one possessed a navy whose size and strategic position gave her a leverage on world politics without precedent. Great Britain controlled the four maritime routes of access from continental Europe to the outer world: the English Channel, the North Sea, the Straits of Gibraltar, and the Suez Canal. In the pre-war world of European hegemony, control of these four narrow seas amounted to control of the globe. The Pax Britannica could be maintained without any need to establish local superiority afloat in the several theatres of European imperialism. Ultimately, British control was secure in any quarter of the world as long as Britain controlled the jugular veins of Europe with an overwhelming preponderance of naval force: and as long as no important centre of naval power existed outside Europe.1

Keywords

Foreign Policy Aircraft Carrier Naval Officer North American Free Trade Area Building Holiday 
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Copyright information

© Christopher G. L. Hall 1987

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