Naval Diplomacy

William R. Braisted

The history of American naval diplomacy may be divided into three periods that correspond to technical developments in naval warfare and with the changing situation of the United States in world affairs. During the first century of the nation's history, when the United States enjoyed considerable security provided by the oceans separating it from Europe and Asia, its naval forces were largely directed toward protecting American merchants, missionaries, and government officials in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This involved showing the flag to induce non-European peoples to treat Americans according to European and American conceptions of civilized practice. During the period from 1890 to 1945, the diplomatic role of the navy was revolutionized by the emergence of the United States as one of the great naval powers. To its earlier responsibilities of police and protection, the "new navy" of steam and steel added the strategic objective of defending the Western Hemisphere and a good part of the Pacific against intrusion by the European powers and Japan. After 1945 the navy joined with the air and land arms to provide the element of force behind American global diplomacy when the great military powers were reduced initially to two and finally to one, the United States.


Albion, Robert G. "Distant Stations." U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 80 (1954). The most useful brief survey of the distant-stations policy.

Baer, George W. One Hundred Years of Sea Power: The U.S. Navy, 1890–1990. Stanford, Calif., 1994. A fine general survey with much material on naval diplomacy.

Braisted, William Reynolds. The United States Navy in the Pacific, 1897–1909. Austin, Tex., 1958.

β€”β€”. The United States Navy in the Pacific, 1909–1922. Austin, Tex., 1972. This and the previous volume are concerned chiefly with the navy's relation to American diplomacy in eastern Asia from the Spanish-American War through the Washington Conference.

Buckley, Thomas H. The United States and the Washington Conference, 1921–1922. Knoxville, Tenn., 1970. A monograph on the major naval conference following World War I.

Challener, Richard D. Admirals, Generals, and American Foreign Policy, 1898–1914. Princeton, N.J., 1973. A magnificently documented study of the relation of both the army and the navy to American diplomacy from the Spanish-American War to World War I.

Davis, Vincent. The Admirals' Lobby. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1967. Deals with institutions, planning, and politics of the navy during the twentieth century.

Field, James A., Jr. America and the Mediterranean World, 1776-1882. Princeton, N.J., 1969. Includes the best treatment of the navy in the Mediterranean during the distant-stations era.

Friedman, Norman. The Fifty Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold War. Annapolis, Md., 2000. A fine survey of the Cold War by a distinguished writer on naval matters.

George, James L. The U.S. Navy: The View from the Mid-1980s. Boulder, Colo., 1985. A collection of essays dealing with the navy during the Reagan presidency.

Hagan, Kenneth J. American Gunboat Diplomacy and the Old Navy, 1877–1889. Westport, Conn., 1973. Concerns Commodore Shufeldt's cruise on the USS Ticonderoga.

β€”β€”. This People's Navy: The Making of American Sea Power. New York, 1991. A fine survey with much material on naval diplomacy.

Howarth, Stephen. To Shining Sea: A History of the United States Navy, 1775–1991. London, 1991. A useful survey that places the navy in world affairs.

Johnson, Robert Erwin. Thence Round Cape Horn: The Story of United States Naval Forces on Pacific Station, 1818–1923. Annapolis, Md., 1963. The best survey of the first century of American naval diplomacy in the eastern Pacific.

O'Connor, Raymond Gish. Perilous Equilibrium: The United States and the London Naval Conference of 1930. Lawrence, Kans., 1962. The most complete study of the conference, based on American archival materials.

Paullin, Charles Oscar. Diplomatic Negotiations of American Naval Officers, 1778–1883. Baltimore, 1922. A pioneer work that has never been completely replaced.

Pelz, Stephen E. Race to Pearl Harbor: The Failure of the Second London Naval Conference and the Onset of World War II. Cambridge, Mass., 1974. Views the naval approach to Pearl Harbor through British, American, and Japanese sources.

Pokrant, Marvin. Desert Storm at Sea: What the Navy Really Did. Westport, Conn., 1999. A view of the navy in the Gulf War.

Sprout, Harold, and Margaret Sprout. The Rise of American Naval Power, 1776–1918. Princeton, N.J., 1946.

β€”β€”. Toward a New Order of Sea Power: American Naval Policy and the World Scene, 1918–1922. Princeton, N.J., 1946. This work and The Rise of American Naval Power, 1776–1918 are the classic surveys of the navy's history through the Washington Conference, including illuminating comments on naval diplomacy.

Sweetman, Jack. American Naval History: An Illustrated Chronology of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, 1775–Present. 2d ed. Annapolis, Md., 1991. Strictly a chronology of events without interpretation.

Trask, David F. Captains and Cabinets: Anglo-American Naval Relations, 1917–1918. Columbia, Mo., 1972. A superb multiarchival study of Anglo-American naval cooperation during World War I.

Tuleja, Thaddeus V. Statesmen and Admirals: Quest for a Far Eastern Policy. New York, 1963. A survey of the navy in the Far East from 1931 to 1941.

Walworth, Arthur. Black Ships off Japan: The Story of Commodore Perry's Expedition. New York, 1946. A good-humored account of the navy's most important diplomatic venture in the nineteenth century.

Wheeler, Gerald E. Prelude to Pearl Harbor: The United States Navy and the Far East, 1921–1931. Columbia, Mo., 1963. The standard study of the navy in eastern Asia during the decade before the Manchurian incident.

Zumwalt, Elmo R., Jr. On Watch: A Memoir. New York, 1976. A rewarding memoir by one of the most gifted American admirals of the Cold War years.

See also Blockades ; The Continental System ; Embargoes and Sanctions ; Extraterritoriality ; Freedom of the Seas ; Imperialism ; Protectorates and Spheres of Influence .

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