Book Review: Crisis in the Mediterranean: Naval Competition and Great Power Politics, 1904-1914


by Jon K. Hendrickson

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014. Pp. xii, 222. Figures, tables, notes, biblio, index. $54.95. ISBN: 612514758

The Mediterranean and the Coming of World War I

Dr. Hendrickson attempts with considerable success to examine the largely ignored events in the Mediterranean that played a part in the slide toward World War I.  The Anglo-French Entente  of 1904 led to the a great reduction in the presence of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean.  This left command of that sea in dispute between France and Italy, which was allied with Austria-Hungary, a nation rebuilding its maritime.  Hendrickson parses the complex ups and downs of these four navies and their alliances.  Italy was a critical player, being hostile to France, in a marriage of necessity with Austria-Hungary (an often hostile alliance), and seeking close ties with Britain.  He also looks at colonial competition in the region, particularly between France and Italy, and the politics of Europe as a whole which naturally affected events in the Mediterranean.  In this way, Hendrickson gives us a much closer and clearer look at how the Mediterranean situation influenced the coming of the general European war in 1914, particularly after the outbreak of the Italo-Turkish War of 1911, which helped spark the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. 

In his final chapter, on Italian, Austro-Hungarian, and German planning for a combined naval offensive in the Mediterranean on the eve of World War I, Hendrickson provides a particularly interesting look at its potential to have radically disrupted French mobilization and also because it is a rare instance of genuine multi-national combined planning in the period, something unusual even years later during the war. 

A volume in the series “New Perspectives on Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology,”Crisis in the Mediterranean  is a valuable read for anyone interested in the origins of the First World War or in naval strategy.


Note: Crisis in the Mediterranean is also available as an e-book, from various vendors.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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