Patrick O'Brian Discussion Forum

‘Congress Buys a Navy: Politics, Economics, and the Rise of American Naval Power, 1881-1921’


Paul E. Pedisich. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2016.

Review by Matthew McCaffrey,  January 23, 2017: Paul Pedisich’s Congress Buys a Navy is a solution in search of a problem. It’s a well-written and researched book that offers a detailed account of the role that Congress played in the rise of the New Navy throughout four decades spanning the turn of the century. It is also, however, a book without a clear purpose.

Although it explains in depth the political machinations surrounding the development of U.S. naval power during the country’s rise to international supremacy, it does not clearly explain the importance of this account for historians or other readers. Despite being replete with detail, it often lacks an overarching motivation or explanation as to why its interpretation of U.S. naval history is original and important . .

Although I have focused on its shortcomings, I should emphasize that this book does contain a wealth of specific information about Congressional influence on the Navy. In my opinion, it will be especially useful for readers who are already familiar with the era in question, and are simply looking for reference material to support other research. Yet while general students of U.S. naval politics will find much to mull over in this book, only a specialist would take it on a long voyage.


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