Congress Buys a Navy

Politics, Economics, and the Rise of American Naval Power, 1881-1921
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Published:October 15, 2016
By Paul E. Pedisich (Author)

Recipient of the John Lyman Book Award in the category of "U.S. Naval History" from the North American Society for Oceanic History (NASOH)

2017 RADM Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature (Finalist)

Congress Buys a Navy offers a new look at the nexus of U.S. politics, economics, and the funding and creation of what is thought of as the “modern” U.S. Navy. Filling in significant gaps in prior economic histories of the era, Paul Pedisich analyzes the role played by nine presidencies and cabinets, sixteen Navy secretaries, and countless U.S. congressmen whose work and actions shaped and funded our forces at sea.

Surveying the development of the new steel Navy from 1881 to 1921, Pedisich’s narrative begins with James Garfield’s appointment of William Hunt as Secretary of the Navy and the formation of the forty-seventh Congress in March 1881, and continues on to the reduction of the naval forces by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1921.

While the main acts in U.S. political history often privilege the actions of the President and his cabinet, the author brings to light the individual rationales, voting blocs, agendas, and political intrigue that drove this process of making a modern Navy.


List Price: $39.95
Member Price: $31.96
Product Details
  • Subject: Naval History
  • Hardback : 304 pages
  • Illustrations: 15
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (October 15, 2016)
  • ISBN-10: 1682470776
  • ISBN-13: 9781682470770
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 22.08 oz
  • ‘Naval Books of the Year’. “Pedisich ... has produced an interesting, authoritative and unique analysis of how navies grow.” —Warship
  • “This book shows the power and influence American political leadership can have on the course of a navy.” —Seapower Magazine
  • Congress Buys a Navy provides some new and valuable insight on the role of the U.S. Congress in helping to make the U.S. fleet a top-ranking naval force.” —Warship International
  • “…the author’s extensive reliance on biographies to introduce key players is helpful and instructive. This welcome addition will appeal to general readers as well as specialists. Highly recommended.” —CHOICE
  • “A strong analytical work, the book belongs in all college and university libraries.” —CHOICE
  • Congress Buys a Navy is a well-written and researched book that offers a detailed account of the role that Congress played in the rise of the New Navy throughout four decades spanning the turn of the century.” —The Strategy Bridge
  • “All in all, the author presents the reader with a nicely written book that explains one part of the story of how the U.S. Navy changed over a four-decade period from a fleet that had little presence on the world scene to a dominant presence on the world’s oceans.” —The Strategy Page
  • "Congress Buys a Navy is a mus read for any historian interested in the United States Navy's rise into a world-class fighting force prior to the end of World War I." —H-Net War
  • “…Congress Buys a Navy is certainly a worthwhile and readable contribution to naval history and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the early development of the US fleet." —Naval Review
  • “Congress Buys a Navy is a good read for the serious student of naval history…” —The NYMAS Review
  • “Pedisich`s well written but succinct work addresses a sphere of maritime history that is often neglected; it is a book that deserves a place in any historian’s library.” —The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord
  • “…This is an important book that helps to explain how naval policy was made in those crucial years.” —International Journal of Maritime History
  • “With 27 pages of notes the author has thoroughly documented this legislative history of the navy. . . . As such, Pedisich has swept a passage through the political minefields of 40 years of U.S. Navy history. He has placed the markers for succeeding scholars wishing to follow his bearings.” —The Mariner's Mirror
  • “An informed and informative work of seminal scholarship, Congress Buys a Navy: Politics, Economics, and the Rise of American Naval Power, 1881-1921, is exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented. Enhanced with the inclusion of twenty-eight pages of notes, a six page selected biography, and an eleven page index, Congress Buys a Navy is a highly recommended and core addition to personal, community, college, and university library American Military History collections in general, and American Naval History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.” —Midwest Book Review
  • “Dispassionate and professional, this fine addition to the history of our Navy well rewards the hours one spends in its company.”—Christopher C. Harmon, PhD, Matthew C. Horner Chair of Military Theory (2010–14), Marine Corps University
  • Congress Buys a Navy by Paul Pedisich is a must-have book for anyone who wants to know more about the history of American naval power and the role of domestic politics in building a navy. This fascinating, well-research study covers an important era of American history, when the United States went from abject naval weakness in the aftermath of the Civil War to building a navy second-to-none. Essential reading for understanding the political backdrop behind this transformation of the U.S. Navy, Congress Buys a Navy deserves a wide readership and will richly repay those who want to know more about American naval history.” —Dr. John H. Maurer, Alfred Thayer Mahan Professor of Sea Power and Grand Strategy, Naval War College
  • “A splendid study of interest to students of the Navy, Congress, and the Progressive era of American history. Pedisich demonstrates that there was far more institutional continuity than historians assume for this era, and Congress, far from being hidebound and standpat, was capable of forging a modern, powerful navy in a period of sweeping technological change.” —Michael A. Barnhart, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Stony Brook University
  • “Paul Pedisich's work here is immensely pertinent to debates today about U.S. Navy force structure and as a case study showing the growth of the U.S. Navy into the equal of the Royal Navy. He shows how important the agency of Congress was in actually allocating money via spending bills to build new ships; and how important that agency remains within our system of government today. There is no growth, or shrinkage, of the U.S. Navy's fleet of ships without Congressional collusion and agency. A must read for anyone wishing to understand a key part of the process that helped the U.S. Navy that came to dominate the maritime domain in the 20th Century.” —John T. Kuehn, Ph.D., William A. Stofft Chair of Historical Research, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

Paul E. Pedisich holds MA and PhD degrees from Stony Brook University and held the Admiral Stephen B. Luce Chair of Naval Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College. His interest as a historian is on the undeveloped economic history of U.S. Navy expansion.

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