The 'Loose Dreadnoughts': South America's Struggle for Naval Preeminence
Erhart, Edward Samuel
Near the beginning of the twentieth century, the three prevailing powers in South America--Argentina, Brazil, and Chile--engaged in a naval arms race centered around the revolutionary "dreadnought" warship type, which were larger, more heavily armed, and faster than all previous battleships. In 1907, the Brazilian government, the first mover in this arms race, contracted with British shipbuilders for two dreadnoughts designed to be the most powerful in the world. The Brazilians hoped that the prestige of these new warships would spearhead their ambitious attempt to become the regional hegemon and an international power, but a plethora of skeptical British and American media outlets quickly bought into conspiratorial suspicions that the country had ordered the ships as a proxy for a great power, a move that would have disrupted a fragile naval balance among some of the world's great powers. Once it became clear that Brazil was keeping the ships, Argentina's decision to respond with two dreadnoughts, themselves the most powerful in the world, was seen as a necessary countermove required by the time's prevailing naval doctrine. Notably, the method by which Argentina conducted its dreadnought's bidding process was subjected to criticism from shipbuilders after the dissemination of their unique designs. The Argentine dreadnoughts induced the Chilean government to seek their own cornerstones of maritime strength, but their two dreadnoughts were taken over by the United Kingdom after the outbreak of the First World War. A third Brazilian dreadnought, larger than the previous two and designed to carry the largest number of guns in a capital ship's main battery that the world had ever seen, was sold to the Ottoman Empire in 1913 and later seized by the British after the beginning of the same conflict. The five dreadnoughts that eventually reached South America, the British having sold one of the Chilean dreadnoughts back to the country in 1920, were never actively employed against a foreign power. As time went on, the major naval powers had commissioned more dreadnoughts to stronger and larger designs, something which ensured that the South American dreadnoughts could no longer affect the great power's naval balances of power and neutralized these ship's once-heightened importance in the international media.
Erhart, Edward Samuel. (November 2019). The 'Loose Dreadnoughts': South America's Struggle for Naval Preeminence (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/7639.)
Erhart, Edward Samuel. The 'Loose Dreadnoughts': South America's Struggle for Naval Preeminence. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, November 2019. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/7639. February 21, 2024.
Erhart, Edward Samuel, “The 'Loose Dreadnoughts': South America's Struggle for Naval Preeminence” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, November 2019).
Erhart, Edward Samuel. The 'Loose Dreadnoughts': South America's Struggle for Naval Preeminence [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; November 2019.
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