In 1864, the Prussian Navy, the core element of what would become the Imperial German Navy, acquired its first ironclad vessels from Great Britain and France. Until then, it had existed as a relatively insignificant force, mainly consisting of a handful of gunboats, corvettes, and other small craft. However, over the subsequent 50 years, the fleet would rise from these small beginnings into one capable of threatening the Royal Navy on the high seas. The development of the Imperial German Navy mirrored the rise of Germany as a technical power following unification in 1871. Still, such a rise needed more than just technical ability – it required considerable political will and economic resources.
The early chapters of From Ironclads to Dreadnoughts cover the initial purchase of ships from abroad, the switch to German shipyards, and the hesitant attempts of Emperor Wilhelm II to develop the navy. The later chapters present the fundamental changes after Alfred von Tirpitz became naval minister in 1897. They focus on the history of the various classes of ships, from their inception to the wide variety of design influences, through their history in service and individual fates.
The text is accompanied by an abundant selection of illustrations, photographs, maps and tables, many of them never before published, sourced from the vast Federal Archives at Freiburg or several private archives – including those of both authors – after many years of research.