Book Review: Before the Battlecruiser: The Big Cruiser in the World's Navies, 1865-1910


by Aidan Dobson

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2018. Pp. 304+. Illus., plans, diagr., tables, graphics, appends., notes, biblio., index. $57.95. ISBN: 1682473759

A History of the Armored Cruiser

Naval historian and author of numerous books, including the recent The Kaiser's Battlefleet, Dodson, has produced a comprehensive account of the class of warships that came to be known variously as “armored cruisers”.

Originating in the era when warships were in transition from wooden to iron, these ships were designed to defend or raid commerce, to scout for the battle fleet, and as flagships for squadrons on distant seas, roles earlier performed by heavy frigates or 50- and 60-gun ships-of-the-line. Armored cruisers were often bigger, faster, and costlier than contemporary battleships, but they were also more lightly armed and armored, and at times found themselves in the battleline with their more robust cousins, such as during the Spanish-American or Russo-Japanese Wars.

Dodson examines these vessels in two ways. He devotes about half the book to an overview history of the evolution and operations of the type, from its origins through the Second World War, in which some aged survivors actually played a role. In the second half, Dodson gives us a technical and historical profile of each navy’s fleet of armored cruisers. This covers technical details, design changes, and operational experience of individual ships and classes, and includes vessels that were projected but never built.

Well-illustrated, with photographs, diagrams, and even full color images of some original plans, Before the Battlecruiser is a valuable reference for anyone interested in the evolution of the modern warship.



Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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