Warrior to Dreadnought: Warship Development 1860-1905 Hardcover – Jan 2004
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About the Author
D.K. Brown was a distinguished naval architect who retired in 1988 as Deputy Chief Architect of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors. He published widely on the subject of warship design and built a reputation as a clear and brilliant commentator on the development of the ships of the Royal Navy. He died in 2008. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The author sketches some of the key (and largely unknown) personalities who shaped the Royal Navy during the last half of the 19th century, though without rendering them in full detail. This is in keeping with the book's technical focus, but may leave some readers unsatisfied.
The book includes at least one photograph of each major warship discussed in the text, but seldom more than one. Additional views of some of the vessels would have been helpful. Despite its technical focus, the book includes only a few ship plans.
These criticisms aside, this book fulfills a specific -- and, for some of us, critical -- need for basic information concerning warship design, during the period when the modern capital ship evolved.
Yet Brown is quite cognizant of the fact the ships are tools for war and must be fit for that purpose and the effect of the technical characteristics on fitness for that purpose is a theme repeatedly sounded in the couse of this and the other texts. The book is quite well illustrated with many contemporary photos and drawings as well as simple charts and graphs to cover various technical points. It might be nice to have had the old plans reproduced in larger scale but one can only put so much in a book of a certain price and size.
One last good thing (and I have no bad things) to say about this work is that Brown is very aware that naval ship design is a human activity carried out by real people just like himself and he does not fail to delve into the personalities and politics of naval ship design of the period, drawing conclusions as he sees appropriate.
Mr. Brown has produced what is close to a history of the evolution of British warships from wood to the Dreadnaught! I can not heap enough superlatives this work. The clear, impartial-yet-probing text covers just about every aspect of the trials and tribulations that faced the Admiralty and their designers over 60 years rapid technological progress. The manner in which they coped with ever-changing conditions is facinating to read. Even what appear to be blunders become understandable as Mr. Brown traces the process to failure, high-lighting the clash of personalities, financial constraints, voter-driven political pressure, threatening foreign naval developments. One becomes so engrossed with this myriad of factors that only admiration for those long-passed gentlemen results. "Warrior to Dreadnought" is the finest military/technical book i've read in several decades.
To saturate one's understanding of this most challenging and interesting period in British naval history, "Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860-1905" is the ideal companion to "Warrior...". Also, the bibliography offers a sterling array of references for those interested in enhancing their knowledge of any aspect of the people, historical, and technology of the period.
About the only improvement possible would be to include more photos or drawings of vessels discussed. Of course the best improvement would be to double the size of the text, but then i speak as someone completely entranced by this work. It was with great regret that the last page was read: "Please, Mister, may i have some more?"
Brown talks about the technical niceties of design so that even non-engineering types can get the gist of the problems ship designers faced while trying to produce the designs demanded by the Admirals and politicians.
The feedback given when these ships actually went into action were sometimes downplayed but never ignored so that new elements of design were constantly added to the overall requirements of each new ship.
This is not an adventure story for the superficial mind but a thoughtful look at generally unappreciated hunks of iron and steel that shaped history more than is recognized by the masses.