chapter
14 Pages

Introduction

The Ghost at the Banquet: Navies, Ideologies, and the Writing of History
ByJ.D. Davies, Alan James, Gijs Rommelse

It is a paradox that the recent upsurge in interest in maritime history, in its broadest sense, has occurred when the study of naval history is still relatively marginalised in a number of ways. Consideration of the importance of navies, and of naval warfare, is still often omitted from broad political, military, and economic histories, despite the fact that many scholars are now coming to naval history from other disciplines not normally associated with the genre. However, the evolution of maritime nations during the early modern period cannot be analysed comprehensively without reference to the role of navies, and the justifications for their existence were framed in terms of ideologies, defined as the mass of cultural ideas and shared perspectives that helped to create the political, social, and cultural environments out of which war aims and naval strategy emerged. Naval power reflected local and national identities, as well the aspirations of monarchs, politicians, merchants, mariners, and even religious leaders. Expressions of these ideologies can be found, for example, in art, architecture, literature, music, theatre, newspapers, political speeches, and the ways in which national naval histories were formed out of potent combinations of recollections of past triumphs and downright myth-making.