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Articles by Bevin Alexander

Posted on Mar 31, 2008 in War College

The Roots of Dreadnought

HMS Dreadnought underway in 1906. Courtesy U.S. Naval Historical Center. One of the great tipping points in world history occurred around 1500 when the “full-rigged” sailing ship—armed with cannons, propelled by banks of sails, and capable of surmounting oceanic storms—arose along the Atlantic coast of Europe. This vessel superseded the oar-pulled galley, developed in the ancient Mediterranean. The galley was dangerously inadequate in the turbulent waters of the Atlantic. The sailing ship reached its culmination in two wooden men o’ war perfected in the first half of the eighteenth century: the “ship of the line,” carrying from 64 to 100 guns on two or three decks, and the lighter, faster frigate, carrying 26 guns on a single deck.   The HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar by J. M. W. Turner. Courtesy Library of Congress.   These ships possessed a fine balance between the weight of the guns relative to the size of the hull. Wooden sailing ships ruled the seas for three-and-a-half centuries. Some vessels were larger...

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