Politics and Failure of Naval Disarmament 1919-1939

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This book is an historical study about the convening and subsequent failures of naval disarmament treaty conferences during the 1920s and 1930s. It shows the pre-existing unwillingness of major naval powers to relinquish their large navies – no matter the cost – because of their mutual distrust. The monograph examines the roles of the politicians, diplomats, and naval hierarchies, weaving the human element into the study of naval doctrine and technology, world events, and the influence of these factors upon the treaties. The book examines why naval disarmament failed, alluding to issues such as isolationism, failure of diplomacy, old grudges, lack of substantive communication, and non-existence of supervision mechanisms necessary to safeguard disarmament treaties. It concludes by briefly looking at what has happened to naval disarmament since World War II.


“He weaves together the linked, and often contrasting, elements of strategy, technology, diplomacy, internal organizational conflict, and national aspirations. Leavened in are significant elements of distrust and narrow-mindedness. The analysis is as complex as the events, but leaves an understanding of the conference environment. The diplomatic struggles are seen against the complex backdrop of the period….LePore does a masterful job of explaining the differences in the speed, missions, value, and strategic importance of each class of vessels. He illustrates Britain’s concern with policing an Empire and contrasting it with the US and Japanese concern over controlling their smaller portion of the globe….an efficient, compact and illuminating history and analysis of naval disarmament….would be a great class text for any history class covering the 1920s and 1930s as well as a solid introduction for a student beginning a more serious study of inter-war disarmament talks or a more general study of disarmament in the 20th century.” – LTC (Ret) George Eaton, Joint Munitions Command Historian

“In this important new book, historian Herbert LePore dissects and evaluates the historical evidence on the disaster that was disarmament. With the skills of a surgeon, he goes a long way toward explaining the intricacies of the failure of good men to come to a common conclusion on how to accomplish the enormous task of hammering swords into plowshares.” – Timothy Walch, Hoover Presidential Library

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface; Foreword
Introduction: Sea Power and Disarmament
1. The Shadows of War and Illusions of Peace
2. The Washington Naval Conference
3. Renaissance of Conflict and Despair
4. Another Beginning
5. The London Naval Conference
6. Hard Negotiations and Tentative Results
7. Disarmament and Disillusionment
8. The Shadows Falls
Bibliography; Index

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