Progressives in Navy Blue

Maritime Strategy, American Empire, and the Transformation of U.S. Naval Identity, 1873–1898
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Published:May 15, 2018

This study examines how intellectual and institutional developments transformed the U.S. Navy from 1873 to 1898. The period was a dynamic quarter-century in which Americans witnessed their Navy evolve. Cultures of progress—clusters of ideas, beliefs, values, and practices pertaining to modern warfare and technology—guided the Navy's transformation.

The agents of naval transformation embraced a progressive ideology. They viewed science, technology, and expertise as the best means to effect change in a world contorted by modernizing and globalizing trends. Within the Navy’s progressive movement, two new cultures—Strategy and Mechanism—influenced the course of transformation. Although they shared progressive pedigrees, each culture embodied a distinctive vision for the Navy’s future. 

List Price: $34.95
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Product Details
  • Subject: Naval History
  • Hardback : 432 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1682471934
  • ISBN-13: 9781682471937
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 28.48 oz
  • Midrats Podcast Episode 451: A Navy of the Gilded Age, with Scott Mobley
  • “It is not often that a book like this comes out, one that helps fill in a missing picture. Most studies of the United States Navy look at a few eras: early America, the Civil War, and post-Spanish/American War. Rarely do we get a nice, and well written, book that covers the era after the Civil War but before the Spanish/American War in such detail…. Mr. Mobley does an excellent job crafting the story by harnessing an impressive catalog of research that be breaks down and interprets the information for us, the reader. People will walk away learning how much the Navy has changed, and how it almost did not change, with the times. Improving the Navy was not a forgone conclusion, but Mr. Mobley gives us the story of how it came about.” —Manhattan Book Review
  • “This book is lovingly researched…. Students new to these debates over progressivism, professionalism, and reform will find much of value in the historiographical language attached to the citations.” —Naval Historical Foundation
  • “The book is fluently and clearly written…. Its thesis is well and convincingly supported by copious endnotes. Progressives in Navy Blue is a landmark work that augers well for the Naval Institute Press’ new series, ‘Studies in Naval History and Sea Power.’ It … deserves the widest readership.” —The Mariner's Mirror
  • “Mobley`s book makes not only the transformation of the U.S.Navy to a world leading combat navy better understandable, but gives some detailed insight in the meaning of maritime strategic thinking for the coming generations of Naval Commanders.” —MarineForum
  • “Many of the lessons Mobley identifies can inform today’s warrior-engineer debate. As the information age matures and the robotics age emerges, America’s navy faces new technological and strategic challenges. Those who trust technology to dominate future warfare and those who argue for the continued need to study the science of war continue to clash, just as they did over a century ago. Lieutenant William Bainbridge-Hoff ’s observation rings as validly today as when he uttered it in 1886: ‘[W]ell-constructed strategy must consider technology, just as technology should be informed by strategy’ (p. 207). For this reason, those desiring to advance the naval profession should read this book.” —Naval War College Review
  • “There is much to learn from reading this book. For just as the end of the 19th century saw the United States moving from wooden, wind-powered ships to steel, coal-fired ships, the beginning of the 21st century sees the U.S. Navy moving from manned platforms to unmanned platforms that carry out both surveillance and attack missions. Thus, the same sort of technological, tactical, and strategic tensions that percolated through the Navy between 1872 and 1898 are again being experienced in today’s service.” —The Journal of America's Literary Past
  • “Captain Scott Mobley’s book comes at a fortuitous time. The Naval reform movement in the period written about here is of immense importance to understanding one of the factors that shaped American naval policy and grand strategy in the coming 20th century. This work provides essential context for that understanding. Naval officers would be well served to study the generation of officers examined here, a story little known or told, who helped literally to change the world.” —John T. Kuehn, Ph.D., Commander USN (retired), author of America’s First General Staff: A Short History of the Rise and Fall of the General Board of the Navy, 1900-1950
  • “A fine study, offering sound new insights into the transformation of the U S Navy in the late 19th century, correcting what had been described as an “Old Guard” resistance to the “New Navy” advocates at the Naval War College and the ONI. Mobley establishes that the dispute was, instead, between technology-oriented leaders like Francis Ramsey and strategy-oriented ones like Luce and Mahan. And he correctly indicates that this tension “echoes to the present day.” —Peter Karsten, author of The Naval Aristocracy: The Golden Age of Annapolis and the Emergence of Modern American Navalism
  • "Scott Mobley makes a significant contribution to our understanding of how and why the U.S. Navy underwent the most complete and thoroughgoing transformation of any of our military services in their histories. This is an important story persuasively told, as valuable for our current military leadership as for historians and public officials involved in military affairs." —Richard H. Kohn, Professor Emeritus of History and Peace, War, and Defense, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • "Captain Mobley’s Progressives in Navy Blue builds on welcome recent scholarship on what once been an overlooked era of naval history prior to the war with Spain. Mobley argues new institutions such as the Naval Institute, Office of Naval Intelligence, and Naval War College facilitated a strategic, anti-imperialistic worldview within the Navy’s officer corps that proved to be in the forefront of the progressive movement of the early 20th century. Mobley’s synthetic work, feeding off the scholarship of Robert Wiebe, Richard Hofstadter, John Hattendorf and others, should be added to the syllabi for courses on progressivism on college campuses throughout the land." —David F. Winkler, author of Incidents at Sea: American Confrontation and Cooperation with Russia and China, 1945-2016

Scott Mobley earned a PhD in history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2015. A former surface warfare officer, Mobley graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School. 

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