Two-Power Standard
   The idea, current throughout the nineteenth century but first articulated offi-cially in the Naval Defence Act of 1899, that the Royal Navy should be able to defeat the combined fleets of the next two most powerful nations. The two powers whose combined navies the British feared were usually France and Russia. The rise of other navies, including the American, the Italian, the Japanese, and of course the German, led to talk of a three-power standard at the end of the century.
   The polarization of Europe between the entente and the central powers in the Edwardian era, and the threat of what Churchill called the German luxury fleet, led, however, to the effective adoption during the Anglo-German naval race of a one-power standard, that power being Germany. These evolving standards often had something of a post-hoc quality to them: they were as much descriptions of the current state of naval power as policies laid down at the admiralty, although they did serve as motivational slogans on occasions, such as the 1884 naval scare, when the British feared that technical change was about to cost them their superiority. The standard began to lose its relevance when the launch of H.M.S. Dreadnought so altered the naval arms with Germany that the comparative balance of capital ships became less important. The standard was dropped by First Sea Lord Winston Churchill in 1912 in favor of a 60 percent British lead in dreadnoughts over any other one fleet.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Kennedy, Paul M. The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery. London: A. Lane, 1976;
    Mackinder, Halford J. Britain and the British Seas. Oxford: Clarendon, 1922.
   MARK F. PROUDMAN

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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