The conflict in Ukraine may not appear to be the best backdrop for the appearance of Paul Kennedy’s Victory at Sea, an important, engagingly written, and well-produced book which takes as its theme the theory that, in war, resources are a key component of success. As with his Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, there is a focus on big battalions. And yet, in a number of recent conflicts and most obviously now in Ukraine, the situation appears far more complex than broad-stroke military history tends to convey.

This, however, would be an overly simplistic reading of Kennedy, because, as he makes abundantly and repeatedly clear and notably so in this new book, fighting quality and the skillful use of equipment are often as important as troop numbers in determining the outcome of military conflicts. Indeed, at the tactical,...


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