Cornhill Magazine,  8 (1863), 410–28.

Sea-Fights, Ancient and Modern

[James Hannay]




Steamships, Navigation, Progress, Genius, War, Military Technology, Skill, Nationalism, Futurism, Experiment, Professionalization

Publications cited:

Douglas 1858

    Compares 'the monsters of the deep now in fashion' with the more nimble vessels with which naval battles were fought in the days before steam (422). Predicts that 'The Trafalgars of the future will be fought with steamers—iron plated steamers, too'. Although the most important factor in naval warfare in the future will be 'the quality of the steamers each nation builds', it is nevertheless 'not improbable that steam warfare may give rise to a school of naval tactics more fertile in combinations than that of the Hosts and Clerks' of old, and the 'skill [...] known as seamanship will simply have to be employed under new conditions'. (428) Indeed, 'Is steam a more potent force in Nature than Genius; or iron harder than the pluck of the British tar? Whom will these great demons serve faithfully but the wizards who best know how to bring them under control?', and this fact 'ought to stimulate us to hopeful ingenuity' (427). Boasts that because 'England [...] builds the largest number' of 'war-steamer[s]', 'one condition of the warfare of the future is very much under her own control'. Claims that the 'Admiralty ought to form an iron-clad squadron, and exercise it as a squadron for experiment's sake', but concludes that 'these speculations are for professional men', the article having been written merely to 'give a popular account' of naval warfare. (428) Also cites the opinion of the Classicist William Ramsay that 'In no one of the arts which have been practised by mankind [...] was the inferiority of the ancients to the moderns more conspicuous than in navigation', an advance which means that 'Our sea-life to-day commands the whole planet, and ranges over regions compared with which the Mediterranean is only a pleasant lake' (410).

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