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Austro-Hungarian Battleships 1914-18
The nineteenth century saw the assertion of Habsburg sea power over the Adriatic from the Austrian inheritance of the Venetian fleet in 1797 to Rear Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff's stunning victory over a superior Italian force at the Battle of Lissa in 1866 to the gradual creation of a modern battle fleet beginning in the 1890s. Austria-Hungary did not have an overseas empire; its empire lay within its own boundaries and the primary purpose of its navy until the beginning of the twentieth century was the defense of its coastline. As its merchant marine dramatically grew in the late nineteenth century, Austro-Hungarian admirals believed that the navy should take a more proactive policy of defense, defending not only the coastline but the greater Adriatic and even the Mediterranean waters which the empire's merchant ships plied. The 1890s saw the beginning of a series of naval building programs that would create a well-balanced modern fleet. Cruisers were constructed for the protection of overseas trade and for "showing the flag" but the decisive projection of Austria-Hungary's commitment to control the Adriatic was the construction of a force of modern battleships.
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September 18, 2012
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