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The Frontiers of Society, Science and Technology, 2020, 2(14); doi: 10.25236/FSST.2020.021419.

The Failure of the Risk Theory and the Tirpitz Plan: An Introduction to the Reasons Behind


Yiding Liu

Corresponding Author:
Yiding Liu

University of California, Irvine   Irvine, CA 92697


Alfred von Tirpitz helped the Imperial German Navy to build a sizeable fleet in the first decade of the 20th century to use as the deterrence against Britain in the coming conflicts, a goal that would ultimately fail for due to the internal deficiency of his naval theory named Risk Theory.
This article discussed how the theory failed to incorporate technological innovations developed after the formation of itself: Including the rapid increase in the need of an ocean-going fast response fleet, and the growing capability of coastal defence flotilla composing of torpedo crafts like submarines and destroyers. It relied too heavily on the German ship building capacity, which was not comparable to British and Canadian ship building industry then. Even though the plan did adopt many innovative designs like the dreadnought battleships, by building a conventional battlefleet incapable to outrun its enemy to have the choice over the battlefield locations and enemies, the Tirpitz plan failed offer a threat dangerous enough as an indefensible deterrence.
Tirpitz fail to realize the capability of fleet concentration of the Royal Navy and Dominion Navies, which would offer significant numerical superiority to the British side in an open battle. And according to relevant theories on the exchange rate, larger fleet would enjoy far less casualty in war, further belittling the threat post by the German Navy.
It is also discussed in the article how Tirpitz failed to understand the social context in Great Britain and its Empire, where the naval strength was constantly seen as a symbol of nation and cultural pride. A concession realized through naval deterrence is highly unlikely to be accepted by the public, which in turn becomes unacceptable for the Parliament and Admiralty. A naval race is unavoidable in this situation and great resources would be consumed for the Reich, resources that could be effectively used for the Army or civil purpose.


Anglo-German Naval Race, Risk Theory, Tirpitz Plan

Cite This Paper

Yiding Liu. The Failure of the Risk Theory and the Tirpitz Plan: An Introduction to the Reasons Behind. The Frontiers of Society, Science and Technology (2020) Vol. 2 Issue 14: 160-170. https://doi.org/10.25236/FSST.2020.021419.


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