Book Review: British Battleships of the Victorian Era


by Norman Friedman

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2018. Pp. 400+. Illus., plans, tables, append, notes, index. $85.00. ISBN: 1682473295

The Royal Navy's Evolution from the 'Wooden Walls' to the Steel Battlewagon

This work completes noted naval historian Dr. Friedman’s history of the origins, evolution, and service of the British battleship that began with his excellent 2016 book The British Battleship: 1906-1946.

Friedman opens with an overview of British naval policy and strategy in the period. He then looks at the upheaval in naval technology that resulted from the introduction of steam propulsion, armor and increasingly heavy cannon, which in about two decades totally changed naval warfare. Friedman follows with a chronological look at the evolution of the British battleship in the period, covering the difficulties of incorporating new technologies into the fleet, disputes over ship design, and the impact of the new vessels on policy, strategy, and tactics. For each new ship design – and there were many, since no one really knew which would work best – Friedman gives a detailed discussion of the design concept, innovations, compromises, and operational experience.

As is necessary to a better understanding of policy and design decisions, Friedman includes coverage of foreign developments, particularly French. He makes extensive use of plans and the work is profusely illustrated, with many images not before seen by this reviewer, plus, as a bonus, color reproductions of original admiralty plans. The book concludes with a look at the role of the surprising number of battleships from this era that proved useful on active service during the Great War.

British Battleships of the Victorian Era is an important addition to the literature of the battleship.


--A. A. Nofi


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close