Democracy, Strategy and the Navy on the eve of the First World War

Event Date:
Start at 5:15 PM
June 22, 2021

Britain was not a democracy when it went to war in 1914. The preceding decades had, however, witnessed profound changes in the nature of British politics, and ‘public opinion’ had become an influential factor in the minds of politicians. The Royal Navy held a special place in popular affections, with large crowds flocking to fleet reviews and warship launches, and naval images often used in advertising. When a scare over German naval construction developed over the winter of 1908-9, public feeling was such that crowds petitioned parliament to build more warships with chants of ‘We want eight and we won’t wait!’.

Popular support for the Navy was welcomed by many admirals and officers but the growing influence of ‘public opinion’ upon government policy also posed major challenges for naval and military thought. Would public panic undermine the government in wartime? Might a foreign power attempting to incite disorder by cutting off Britain’s food supply? Did the public really understand what the Navy was for?

In this online talk, Dr David Morgan-Owen (King’s College London) will explore these questions, offering a new perspective on the relationship between the people, the government and the Navy in Britain before 1914.

This event is free and open to everyone, and will take place via Zoom. There is no need to book; please click on the button below shortly before 5.15pm on the day.