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British Cruisers (Hardback)

of the Victorian Era

Maritime Seaforth

By Norman Friedman
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 350
ISBN: 9781848320994
Published: 30th November 2012
Last Released: 6th March 2017


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Gradually evolving from the masted steam frigates of the mid-nineteenth century, the first modern cruiser is not easy to define, but for the sake of this book the starting point is taken to be Iris and Mercury of 1875. They were the RN's first steel-built warships; were designed primarily to be steamed rather than sailed; and formed the basis of a line of succeeding cruiser classes. The story ends with the last armoured cruisers, which were succeeded by the first battlecruisers (originally called armoured cruisers), and with the last Third Class Cruisers (Topaze class), all conceived before 1906. Coverage, therefore, dovetails precisely with Friedman's previous book on British cruisers, although this one also includes the wartime experience of the earlier ships.rn The two central themes are cruisers for the fleet and cruisers for overseas operations, including (but not limited to) trade protection. The distant-waters aspect covers the belted cruisers, which were nearly capital ships, intended to deal with foreign second-class battleships in the Far East. The main enemies contemplated during this period were France and Russia, and the book includes British assessments of their strength and intentions, with judgements as to how accurate those assessments were.rn As would be expected of Friedman, the book is deeply researched, original in its analysis, and full of striking insights – another major contribution to the history of British warships.

This superb book examines a period of Royal Navy ship design and operations which up till now has been under reported. It comes with the highest recommendation.

Read the full review here.

Australian Naval Institute, Tim Coyle

The main glory of this beautiful book is the huge selection of photographs, many of which would otherwise have lain unseen in the NMM's encyclopaedic archives, elegantly combined with the text.

Robert Griffiths, Seaweed

This is another beautiful Seaforth naval history. The level of detail is immaculate and the ship drawings are well-executed. A classic reference work that is unlikely to be equalled – Most Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here.


The book is very well illustrated, with a mix of excellent photographs and high quality purpose drawn plans. I would have liked at least one of the plans to be labelled but that’s only a minor quibble. This is a superb book that provides us with a detailed insight into the design and development of a key part of the British fleet at a time when the Royal Navy could validly claim to rule the seas.

Read the full review here.

History of War

When you think of cruise ships, surely the Golden Age would have been between 1920 and 1950, the era of the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth? It seems as though the Victorian age, responsible for so many monumental areas of progress, invention and development,also saw the birth and promotion of the cruise industry, with Britain at its forefront, as usual. A fascinating look at a truly golden era.

Books Monthly

As always, Norman Friedman has carried out extensive research into his subject and has a masterly grasp of detail.
'Cruisers of the Victorian Era' contributes a great deal to our understanding of how warships evolved after the era of sail and is well up to the author's usual high standards. The book will be an essential acquisition for the collections in naval libraries, or course, but besides its obvious importance, it is also a thoroughly absorbing read and highly recommended for everyone with an interest in the generations of warships that preceded our own.

Australian Naval Institute

An important book with a wealth of detail, which adds significantly to the published literature on this subject.

Warship Annual 2014

This is a work of the first importance, one that turns the list of the Victorian navies' cruisers into coherent responses to policy and strategy inputs.

The Mariner's Mirror

If you're a fan of frigates and corvettes...you will find this book to be an excellent addition to your book collection.

Model Ship World/Model Ship Builder

Well researched. A masterly grasp of detail. Lively and informative style. A thoroughly absorbing read.

Warship World

The strength of friedman's approach is that he ties the technological aspects of cruiser design (armour, armament, and machinery) to the Royal Navy's tactical and strategic doctrine. The first chapter of British Cruisers is a good introduction to the wooden steam cruising vessels before the coming of the ironclad. Friedman successfully melds technological development with the evolution of the Royal Navy's tactical and strategic doctrine to produce an integrated assessment of British cruiser design from the introduction of steam to the coming of the battecruiser eighty years later. These two volumes are big beautiful books printed on good quality paper with superb photographs and plans that are works of art. Yet they are much more than fine example of the printer's craft.

International Journal of Maritime History

It's a substantial large format book and to be honest I can't claim to have read it cover-to-cover yet, but even a cursory glance is enough to suggest that this one is probably up to NF's usual (impeccably high) standards. I believe Friedman's in depth research, the extensive (and superbly reproduced) photography selection, coupled with A D Baker's expert line drawings, will set a standard on this subject that may never be surpassed.

PS, the publishers have given this book the 'Victorian Era' subtitle for some inexplicable reason, but don't be misled, because the magnificent 1901-1908 Armoured Cruiser classes of the Edwardian RN are also covered.

Naval Weapons Discussion Board

Another superb book by Norman Friedman. It has eight chapters plus a lengthy introduction and an appendix on Vicker's cruisers. The book defines cruisers as those ships designed to protect trade and drive the trade of enemy nations from the seas. The book has over 350 pages including an index, and data pages listing the dimensions etc of the various classes and then data pages listing the fates of the individual ships. It is loaded with many pictures plus plans and profiles of selected ships.

Ship Model Forum

Following his magnificent book ‘British Cruisers – Two World Wars and after’ (and his two books on British destroyers from the earliest days to after the Second World War) this latest publication covers an era which is often forgotten. As usual, the books has many magnificent photographs and drawings (By A D Baker III) and is written in a manner that makes the passes of the complicated technical changes simple to follow. It is a very interesting and entertaining read which should not be missed.

National Plastic Modeler Society
 Norman Friedman

About Norman Friedman

Norman Friedman is a strategist known for his ability to meld historical, technical, and strategic factors in analyses of current problems. He has frequently appeared on television, and he has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate on naval topics. His forty books include, for Seaforth, two-volume histories of British cruisers and destroyers, a history of naval gunnery in the battleship era (Naval Firepower), a history of naval anti-aircraft gunnery during the two World Wars (Naval Anti-Aircraft Guns and Gunnery), World War I Naval Weapons, and, most recently, Fighting the Great War at Sea: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology. A history of British battleships is currently in preparation. All of these books are based largely on primary documents created by the Royal Navy and related organizations. As a result, they tend to shed new and sometimes surprising light on what might seem to be well-understood events and developments. All of them reflect Dr. Friedman’s interest in the way in which national strategy and policy and technology intersect. Dr. Friedman has also contributed articles on current naval technology to the annual Seaforth Naval Review. He wrote a series of design histories of U.S. warships, ranging from aircraft carriers to small combatants, based on U.S. Navy internal papers, five editions of a guide to world naval weapon systems, and accounts of trade-offs in warship (including submarine) design and naval radar technology. Other topics range from the role of space systems in naval warfare, the character of modern naval command and control (network-centric warfare), recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to histories of the Cold War, to naval strategy and to naval technology, including the possible role of unmanned (but armed) aircraft in carrier operations.

Dr. Friedman’s Cold War history, The Fifty Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold War, won the 2001 Westminster Prize as the best military history book of the previous year, from the British Royal United Services Institute. To date he is the only American to have been so honored. His Seapower as Strategy won the Samuel Eliot Morrison prize awarded by the Naval Order of the United States in November 2001.

After receiving a Ph.D. as a theoretical physicist at Columbia University, Dr. Friedman spent eleven years at a New York think tank, the Hudson Institute, headed by Herman Kahn, who was famous both as a futurologist and as a strategist. Much of his work there involved writing scenarios for possible future conflicts -- many in places which are still of great interest, such as Korea. Scenario-writing demands the ability to focus on the essentials of a situation, and on the forces likely to drive it. Dr. Friedman left Hudson as Deputy Director for National Security Studies. He then spent a decade as in-house consultant to the Secretary of the Navy. Among his projects for that office was a series of studies of likely future developments in various areas, beginning with the fundamentalist Muslim uprising then enveloping Algeria, and including likely developments around the Indian Ocean. Other projects included a contribution to the formulation of post Cold War U.S. naval strategy and participation in a study of the future of U.S. surface warships. Dr. Friedman served as futurologist for the U.S. Marine Corps headquarters in 2002-2004. In 2013 he wrote a history of the MRAP (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected) vehicle program as a study in successful rapid (unconventional) procurement, under contract to the MRAP Joint Program Office. He has also written an official history of U.S. Navy air defense missile systems (including anti-ballistic missile systems).

Topics Dr. Friedman has studied under contract to government agencies and to major government contractors have included the nature of future naval warfare, the defense transformation effort (as reflected in attempts to develop network-centric types of warfare), naval command and control as a model for network-centric warfare, the development of U.S. and British aircraft carriers (for the Naval Sea Systems Command and for the Office of Net Assessment, respectively, the latter as a study in defense transformation and the adoption of foreign innovations), missile defense, the future shape of the U.S.Marine Corps, the contribution of the U.S. Coast Guard to homeland defense, the future of the U.S. aerospace industry, the potential development of precision weapons, the U.S. industrial capacity for industrial mobilization, U.S. strategic targeting strategy and competitive policies, scenarios for conflict in Europe and Asia, the cost of current and future naval aircraft, nuclear proliferation (incentives and deterrents), prospects for torpedo countermeasures, the possible future shape of mine countermeasures, and the tactics of long-range anti-ship missiles, The naval missile study, conducted at the Naval War College, contributed towards the U.S. Navy’s technique for targeting anti-ship Tomahawk and was an early example of network-centric warfare. The paper which resulted from this study was said to have been very influential in the navy’s adoption of what amounted to network-centric concepts.

Dr Friedman served on the 1989 U.S. Navy study of future surface combatant characteristics and later on a navy panel reviewing U.S. Navy R&D on ship hull and machinery topics. He gave the keynote address to a classified ONR meeting on the future of surface combatants, looking out 25 to 50 years and taking Moore’s Law into account in evaluating the likely prospects of stealthy ships. During 2010 Dr. Friedman contributed to a National Academy of Sciences study of the future of shipbuilding in the United States.

Dr Friedman has lectured widely in forums such as the U.S. Naval War College, the Naval Postgraduate School, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, the Air War College, the Australian , British, and Canadian junior and senior national staff colleges, the Royal United Services Institute, the British Ministry of Defence, and at a series of seminars for the Naval Air Systems Command managed by the University of Virginia. In the fall of 2002 Dr. Friedman served as the Royal Australian Navy’s Synott Professor, lecturing on seapower in several Australian cities. He was keynote speaker at Royal Australian Navy historical conferences, in 2009 on the theme of Commonwealth naval cooperation and in 2013 on World War I as a maritime war. In 2014 he was a keynote speaker at the Royal Navy Museum conference on the Anglo-German Naval Arms Race leading up to World War I.

For some years Dr.Friedman was Visiting Professor of Operations Research at University College, London, concerned mainly with the formulation and consequences of ship operational requirements. For about thirty years Dr. Friedman has presented numerous commercial lectures (for defense and and naval professionals) on various defense topics. A hallmark of these lectures is their firm grounding in current international political and social trends, rather than simply in technology or in military considerations.

Dr. Friedman writes a monthly column on world and naval affairs for the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute. His writing has appeared widely in periodicals, including the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Naval Forces, Military Technology, Jane’s Navy International, Jane’s International Defence Review, Joint Forces Quarterly, Asia Pacific Defence Reporter, and Naval History.

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