Ironclad Gloire postcard

Ironclad Gloire- This ship was the first ocean-going ironcland in the world and initated an ironclad race with Great Britain.

Ironclad Trident postcard

Ironclad Trident- A Colbert class ironclad, this ship was a result of the ironclad race with Great Britain and saw action during the French conquest of Tunisia in 1881.

Battleship Jaureguiberry postcard

Battleship Jaureguiberry- An early French pre-dreadnought battleship. Launched in 1893, this ship served into World War I and supported the Allied landings at Gallipoli in 1915.

The French navy modernized greatly during the second-half of the 19th century, taking a leadership role in several areas of warship design. In 1850, the French ship Napoleon became the first steam-powered battleship in history. France launched the Gloire, the first seagoing ironclad, in 1859, the first mechanically powered submarine, the Plongeur, in 1863, and the first steel-hulled warship, the Redoubtable, in 1876. The French were aware that they could not compete with Britain's Royal Navy in terms of size, so they took to technological innovations to try to close the gap. The Jeune Ecole or “young school” concept of naval strategy emerged during the latter part of the 19th century. French naval theorists of the time envisioned swarms of small but powerfully armed ships to combat slow and unwieldly battleships. As torpedo technology rapidly advanced during this time, there was a real fear that these weapons could be quite potent against larger ships. France enjoyed some success with this concept, as the French Navy successfully engaged larger Chinese ships during the Sino-French War from 1883-1885. By the end of the 19th century it became clear that using battleships armed with long-range guns was more effective than the French strategy. As a result, the French fleet found itself lacking in terms of its number of battleship by the close of the century.