What country had the largest navy in history

Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,534
United States
#51
I don't know if we have reliable figures for the 16th century. I've certainly not seen any, although they probably had at least 200-300.
 
Feb 2011
6,119
#52
Ships from the Anthony Roll of Henry VIII's Navy (16th century England):



Source: The Anthony Roll of Henry VII's ships, by DM Loades
Note: Tonnage of the Holy Bark was not provided in above source
 
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Likes: Yuyue
Mar 2012
4,226
#53
I pulled them right from Haskbus earlier posting, which is what had been quoted.

Battle ship is an inappropriate name for these ships , since they are nothing like how the word is used else elsewhere in English, which is used primarily for the large armored gunned warships of the late 19th through 20th century. Warship would be a better term.
Underwood said 3rd class ships had 30 men, not 10-20. The 4th class ships with 10 men only numbered 150.


What is the source for that claim? Assuming it is Young, can can you give the page where to find the information?

Can you give a name of a specific ship that with crew of 900, not just some generic claim?

I ask, because the HMS Victory only carried 850, and it had a length of 227 ft (186 ft at the gun deck), a much bigger ship than any Chinese ship we actually have evidence for.

And the Tudor HMS Revenge had a length of 140 ft and a crew of 260, so a crew 300 for a ship a mere 90 ft seems rather high, but if these were oared ships, then the crew sizes would be higher , but it implies a smaller ship than the Revenge.
Read the article. It doesn't get any more specific than what I already posted.






I am curious what primary source was used to drive the number. What time soecific time frame of the Korean navyvare we talking about?

80 men per ship is much smaller than contemporary European ships of the 16th century. A 6th rate ship, the smallest one rated, typically had a crew of 140 to 160, and a 5th rate ship, the most common rated ship in the late 18th century, had cresws of 200 to 300.

And the most common ship in a line of battle in the 18 and 19th century was the 3rd rate ship which had crews of 500 or so. Rating system of the Royal Navy - Wikipedia
The ship of the line rating dates to the 17th century, not the 16th century. Ships from the 17th century are larger than the average ship from the 16th.


From Ming sources I have previouzly cited , it said that's ocean going ships had something like 1 man per 2.5 tons burthen for commercial ships, and warships would require more men. The 300 tons would be apply only for commercial non warships.

For warships, the ratio would be as low a 1 man per ton for Chinese warships, implying only 103 to 123 tons. Same for the other ships.

Lo Jung-pang in the early Ming mentioned some 700 liao (175 tons burthen) ships had crews of 400, around a man per half ton* So 1 man per 2.5 tons is likely far too high a ratio for Chinese warships, and the tonnages are smaller than you stated.

* " ZHENG HE: AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE PLAUSIBILITY OF 450-FT TREASURE SHIPS" Sally Church page 16. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40727457?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.Rating system of the Royal Navy - Wikipedia

The line between commercial ships and warships are not always clear at the time. Many warships are commercial ships used in times of war, most European fleets are exactly of this nature too. Furthermore, the amount of crew needed to operate a ship in times of peace should also be lower than the amount that fights in the ship during times of war, this is what goes on with the undermanned Venetian ships too (only 26-27 men for ships of 100 tons). While some ship can be manned more than the average transport ship in times of war, the normal count is 1 man per 10 liao or 2.5 tons.


Some contemporary accounts imply that Zheng He ships were smaller than the 1250 tons you claimed. (The 2000 ton ia for displacement tonnage. Since you and I have been consistently using tons burthen for all the other tonnage of ships, we should be consistent, and not use dispacement, which gives a larger number, just for Zheng He ships. The old Chinese sources are always talking about capacity (burthen) when they give the figures.

Gong Zhen, who participated in Zheng He's voyages, said the crew sizes of the Zheng He treasure ships were only 200 - 300, which implies a tonnage of only 700 tons per previously cited Ming source Lo Jung-pang source. ("ZHENG HE: AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE PLAUSIBILITY OF 450-FT TREASURE SHIPS"" Sally Church)
I have always been using displacement, you are the only one who is using tons burthen and I converted them to displacement when I talk about Liao. Zheng He conducted many voyages, and the second voyage only had 62 ships carrying 28,000 men. This implies 400-500 men per ship on average. There are many ships in Zheng He's fleet, and the large ones weigh 5,000 liao or 2,000 tons displacement, as Hongbao's tomb discovered in 2010 mentioned. They are not contradicted by other contemporary sources, they are merely describing different ships, as Zheng He had multiple voyages and sailings, some of which are not even detailly noted in official records (such as his expedition to Japan).


This is not true. Henry VIII's Harry Grace Dieu in the Anthony Rolls was 1000 tons burthen, and it was built after 1420. Using the value implied by Gong Zhen account actually makes Zhen He ships smaller than the Harry Grace Dieu.

The 15th century Peter Von Danzig was 800 tons (htttps://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_von_Danzig_(ship) ) , so it wasn't just the Grace Dieu that was comparable or larger than the Zheng He Treasure ships

The early 16h century Scottish ship the Great Michael was 1000 tons burthen.
The Grace Dieu never sailed beyond port, and it was one of a kind, which I already mentioned. Ships above 1,000 tons are generally more common in the 16th century. Zheng He's larger ships recorded in Hongbao's tomb was 5,000 liao, or 1250 tons burthen, 2,000 tons displacement. This might not even be the largest, as we hear of treasure ships carrying 1,000 people; this matches with Song accounts of ships being around 6,000 liao.




Again, way wrong. 83 Fuschans at. 300 ton each is 24,900 tons burthen , which works out to 39,840 displacement tons, no where near the 101,600 displacdmrnt tons of a Nimitz class aircraft carrier (not 81,000 as you claimed: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nimitz-clas_aircraft_carrier.

Further, I have shown that the 300 ton estimate is for too high based on crew size for a Chinese warship, 100 tons is more likely, so the actual ton displacement sould be closer to 13,280 tons. Since the Fuchans were the largest ships, the other ships should make smaller contributions, although I have not added them all up.

Anyways, that is only 1 Nimitz class carrier and the US has 10 of them (Gerald Ford is an essentially upgraded Nimitz).
I copied and pasted an old post, which seem to made a calculation error, but its hardly relevant to the point I'm making. Gang Deng estimates 1,250,000 to 2,800,000 tons as the aggregate tonnage for all the imperial ships combined, making your previous comment that a single aircraft carrier weighs more than the entire Ming and Korean navy combined WAY off the mark.

For the Yuan-Ming period, the estimated total number of vessels owned by organizations for the purpose of defense and transportation is likely to have been between 10,600 and 21,800, with an aggregate tonnage of 1,250,000 to 2,800,000. Given that these two dynasties had stable territories and internal peace, the figures can be used as a reference point for some of the other main dynasties.



I thought we were talking about ocean going craft.

The size of the ships indicate these were ocean going ships, the river boats being smaller. If these are river craft than then the crew ratio could be higher, but in an area not quoted the author discussed how military ships have lower crew ratios, as low as 1 man per half ton. And there is a question to why river craft have higher crews ratios than ocean going ships. It could be that loaded river boats could float down stream, then row or to a much lighter boat back. That would work for cargo but not military ships. In any case, military ships have to carry people involved in fighting. The Crew sizes imply smaller ships than you assume.
We are, all the figures I provided are for ocean going ships, so what's your point?


Are the 400,000 solidiers land troops? Can you provide documentation that these 400,000 were all assigned to the navy as you claim? Also, the 2.5 ratio applies only to sailors not inovled fighting, since the numbers came from cargo.carrier ships. Per Sally Church , the ratio miltary craft were 1 man per ton or even 1 man per half ton in one example. So for 2.5 tons, we would have 2.5 men, and since we know sailors were 2.5 tons per man, the other 1.5 men must be the soldiers. So. 300,000 men would represent 500000 ton burthen or 800,000 tons displacement, even if every single man of the 300,000 was assigned to ships.

Where did the 300,000 - 400,000 number come up from?
Yes, as the primary source specifically stated that these were "military households by the ocean", with "each 100 household having one warship." Ming Taizu Shilu V.75

The Zhongguo Lidai Junshi Zhanlue published by the PLA publication added up all the households recorded in the Ming source Chouhai Tubian which came up with 55 Wei (guards), 99 suo, 354 inspection posts, 997 naval fortresses, 190 smaller forts, 313 mounds, 48 outposts, 23 marine infantry camps, and 24 mail posts. This adds to a total of 410,000 men. This dates to the 16th century, but the system came from the Yongle period.
 
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Mar 2012
4,226
#54
Ricci's comments were regarding commercial ships, not naval warships. You seem to be throwing numbers from Chinese commerical and maritine fleet with those of its navy, which is different. Throwing in in numbers from a maritine fleet falsely inflates the naval numbers. Naval refers to ships of the military, and the Navy is the military branch on water. Unless the ships are directly manned and controlled by the navy, they should not be counted.
No, I wasn't. I clearly distinguished commercial ships from naval warships as presented by Gang Deng and I suggest you take a look at his book. There are more commercial ships than naval ships in China, but not by a significant margin, in Europe however, the difference is vast, as the standing navy is much smaller than the amount of merchant ships. So if we compare the navy alone, the Ming navy dwarfed those of contemporary European ones even in the 16th century.


The figures you.present are not warships, but are cargo vessels or the most part.and are dishonesty inflating the Chinese numbers of ships. This is as.deceptive as referring to the Zheng He ships in tons displacement and European ships in the smaller tons capacity. Most of the transport ships discussed we're not involved in hauling military supplies or troops, and don't qualify as being included in a discussion of navies.
Bart, read the damn source before you go on a frivolous rant, you are embarrassing yourself. Gang Deng explicitly divided the warships from the transportation ships in page 68, Table 3.3 of his book. The subaverage of the total transport ships for the Ming is around 906 per year. In the Ming shipping regulation, ships leaves service after every 10 years, and ships are produced annually, but we only have sporadic records of annual ship production. This mean the total standing navy should be the annual production times 10, yielding around a subtotal of around 9,060 transportation ships owned by the government at one time. For warships, we only have data for the year 1372, where 660 ships were produced (yielding a standing navy of around 6,600 ships) and 1451, where 440 ships were produced, yielding an subaverage of 550 ships a year, or a standing navy of 5,500 warships. However, this is the subtotal of the entire first half of the Ming, including figures for production right after the Tumu incident where there was a decline in naval activity. Shipping in Yongle's time would have been even higher than that, as primary sources give 12,837 transport ships. The naval shipping number production subaverage for Song, Yuan, and Ming was 1,032 a year, or a standing navy of around 10,320 ships. Since naval activity increased drastically in the Yongle period, we have all the reason to assume that like the transport ships, the warship production during Yongle's reign is also above the Ming average or even the years of Hongwu (660 ships a year), and might well have reached a standing navy of over 10,000 ships.

Chinese Maritime Activities and Socioeconomic Development, C. 2100 B.C.-1900 A.D.


Furthermore, your assumption of 100 ton average is unjustified. River boats, as most of them would be, only were around 50 tons. Assuming 11,000 ships would give a tonnage of 550,000, and rounding up for a deal larger ships gives 600,000 tons, but that is mostly cargo (90%), not military related.
They are not river boats, Gang Deng explicitly said they were sea vessels. Furthermore, using the recorded grain figures from each dynasty, Deng estimate that the average ship from the Song-Qing times was well above 100 tons. He thought that of the 31,400 warships afloat during the Song-Yuan engagement, an average of 100 tons might be a conservative estimate:
By the end of the thirteenth century, in the two coexisting navies of the Southern Song (over 13,500 warships) and the Yuan (17,900 warships), the total number of vessels reached 31,400. The corresponding approximation of aggregate tonnage of the Song and Yuan navies is 550,000 to 1,200,000 tons, assuming that they were 100-tonners because of their advantage of maneuvrability in sea battles. Thus, the present estimates are conservative.


Even larger civilian shipping easily average over 100 tons in the 18th century.
To quote Gang Deng:
The capacity of these ships was between 65,000 and 400,000 jin (38.8 and 238.8 metric tons). It has been estimated that after 1727, there were 500 large Chinese civilian ships operating at sea with an annual aggregate carrying capacity of 400 tons each. Later, in the 1820s, the Chinese commercial fleet to southeast Asia was maintained at a 300 ship level, with a carrying capacity of 80,000 tons and averaging 140 tons each.
Deng, p.73

And if the Ming really did have such a huge fleet, the Chinese must rank as the most incompetent navy in the multi-verse, given their struggles with Japanese pirates.

Either we accept the Ming navy was incompetent not to be able to crush the Japanese pirates easily, or the numbers are greatly inflated. In reality, most of those ships were cargo ships not invovled in carrying military supplies, and really should not be part of this discussion.

The thread was on the largest navy, not the largest maritime fleet, which is different.
First, the early Ming fleet was not the late Ming fleet, where many Weisuo units already rotted. Pirates were all crushed in local military engagements in the early Ming. For instance, in 1371, the Fuzhou guards captured 13 Wokou ships and captured 300 men. In 1373, the Ming naval guards again defeated the Wokou at Wenzhou and captured over 130 men. These are only two of the many instances where local Ming forces defeated the pirates. Furthermore, its not as if pirates threatened the establishment of the Ming regime; pirates often avoid direct confrontation when engaged with larger government forces, they were merely hard to pinpoint and eliminate in the 16th century, and when there is a naval engagement, pirate forces can number in the high thousands or even tens of thousands, too large for local garrisons to handle. If the presence of pirate shows the Ming navy was not competent then by the same logic, the British Indian army was incompetent because it never eliminated banditry on the subcontinent.



A force to Java of 30,000 we with 900 ships implied that the average size of ships were small, only 33 persons each, and that Song dynasty ships were small, since that is where the Mongols would have gotten them. The Mayflower , which was a small ship, carried 102 passengers and around 40 crew members, was around 180 tons, so the typical Chinese ship was around 60 ton it would seem.

The Mongola used some 600 ships to transport some 39,700 men, for just just 66 men per ship, again implying Chinese and Korean ships were small, maybe 126 tons.

The Zheng He Treasuee ships may have been dedicated propose built ships, not typically used, and much larger than average.
Yes, according to Table 2.2, Deng shows that Yuan military operations had ships that on average had only 17-75 men, which had much smaller numbers of personnel than ships from the Three Kingdom-Song or the Ming. The two Ming naval operations on the other hand had 134 and 455 men per ship respectively. Deng attributes this to the lack of experience that the Mongols had with the navy, and built many ships in a haste which were not optimum for military operation. However, it should be noted that many of these small ships were temporarily assembled and not from the standing navy so the numbers do not directly and completely reflect the average tonnage there (although the Ming fleets still appear larger).


The fact the ships are owned by the government does not make them naval ships. Naval ships are either warships ships or ships dedicated to carrying military supplies, and most of these ships were just carrying grain.

Given that the Ming were mostly using river crafts to transport grain, and Song Li of the Minister of Works indicates the river boats carried around 200 piculs, or 50 tons, the 12,839 ships is around 642,000 tons. But since a few ships would be larger, say 800,000 tons. But only a few of that ships could be called navy ships, and it is not a valid comparison when comparing to other countys' navies.
If anything, the comparison I made earlier is underestimating the size of the Chinese navy compared to early 15th century European ones and before.
Displacement aside, the Venetian fleet of 345 ships of 100 tons or above included all ships, private or standing, transportation or military. Whereas the 6,600 ships of Ming times were merely the standing government fleet, when combining the transportation and warships together, the total ships owned by the government in the Yongle period would have probably been over 20,000 in size, averaging well above 100 tons each. This is not including civilian shipping, where in the late 18th century, when naval activities already declined, a number of 130,000 were on the tax records (compared to 3,300 ships for Venice in the early 15th century). These do not include riverine ships.
If we only include the standing navy, the Yuan, with an average of above 100 tons in a total of 12,750 ships, would be at the very least around 1,300,000 tons of naval ships and a comparable figure of transport ships at its height. The total tonnage of early Ming times should be comparable, if not, somewhat higher.
 
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#55
Corrections follow.

Actually, no. The US Navy had at least a maximum of more than 800 ships,
August 1945, @6800. The 8000 figure probably includes the Coast Guard, which in wartime is transferred to the Navy. Largest, most powerful and deadly Navy in history to that point.

Currently, I think the US Navy is around 250 ships or so,
Just under 300 now.



each Nimitz class aircraft carrier weights around 90,000 tons, and the US has 10.

Spent 3 1/2 years onboard Theodore Roosevelt. 100,000 metric tons. The new Fords are not related to the Nimitz class. TR has been called an Improved Nimitz, as she was the first modular construction carrier.

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Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,059
#56
Corrections follow

August 1945, @6800. The 8000 figure probably includes the Coast Guard, which in wartime is transferred to the Navy. Largest, most powerful and deadly Navy in history to that point.
Not my.comment, not sure my name is associate with it. US Navy reached 600 ships under Reagan, or close to it, but the number beers have done down after the Cold War.

Spent 3 1/2 years onboard Theodore Roosevelt. 100,000 metric tons. The new Fords are not related to the Nimitz class. TR has been called an Improved Nimitz, as she was the first modular construction carrier.

Sent from my SM-J700T using Tapatalk
When I said it, I just didn't want the poster I was replying to insisfing there were only just 9 Nimitiz aircraft carriers, the Gerald Ford is as big asked any of them, and for the purpose of size , it is similar, bigger than the mere 89,000 tons he claimed.
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,059
#57
No, I wasn't. I clearly distinguished commercial ships from naval warships as presented by Gang Deng and I suggest you take a look at his book. There are more commercial ships than naval ships in China, but not by a significant margin, in Europe however, the difference is vast, as the standing navy is much smaller than the amount of merchant ships. So if we compare the navy alone, the Ming navy dwarfed those of contemporary European ones even in the 16th century.




Bart, read the damn source before you go on a frivolous rant, you are embarrassing yourself. Gang Deng explicitly divided the warships from the transportation ships in page 68, Table 3.3 of his book. The subaverage of the total transport ships for the Ming is around 906 per year. In the Ming shipping regulation, ships leaves service after every 10 years, and ships are produced annually, but we only have sporadic records of annual ship production. This mean the total standing navy should be the annual production times 10, yielding around a subtotal of around 9,060 transportation ships owned by the government at one time. For warships, we only have data for the year 1372, where 660 ships were produced (yielding a standing navy of around 6,600 ships) and 1451, where 440 ships were produced, yielding an subaverage of 550 ships a year, or a standing navy of 5,500 warships. However, this is the subtotal of the entire first half of the Ming, including figures for production right after the Tumu incident where there was a decline in naval activity. Shipping in Yongle's time would have been even higher than that, as primary sources give 12,837 transport ships. The naval shipping number production subaverage for Song, Yuan, and Ming was 1,032 a year, or a standing navy of around 10,320 ships. Since naval activity increased drastically in the Yongle period, we have all the reason to assume that like the transport ships, the warship production during Yongle's reign is also above the Ming average or even the years of Hongwu (660 ships a year), and might well have reached a standing navy of over 10,000 ships.

Chinese Maritime Activities and Socioeconomic Development, C. 2100 B.C.-1900 A.D.




They are not river boats, Gang Deng explicitly said they were sea vessels. Furthermore, using the recorded grain figures from each dynasty, Deng estimate that the average ship from the Song-Qing times was well above 100 tons......

If anything, the comparison I made earlier is underestimating the size of the Chinese navy compared to early 15th century European ones and before.
Displacement aside, the Venetian fleet of 345 ships of 100 tons or above included all ships, private or standing, transportation or military. Whereas the 6,600 ships of Ming times were merely the standing government fleet, when combining the transportation and warships together, the total ships owned by the government in the Yongle period would have probably been over 20,000 in size, averaging well above 100 tons each. This is not including civilian shipping, where in the late 18th century, when naval activities already declined, a number of 130,000 were on the tax records (compared to 3,300 ships for Venice in the early 15th century). These do not include riverine ships.
If we only include the standing navy, the Yuan, with an average of above 100 tons in a total of 12,750 ships, would be at the very least around 1,300,000 tons of naval ships and a comparable figure of transport ships at its height. The total tonnage of early Ming times should be comparable, if not, somewhat higher.
You are confusing the issue but continuing to lump in normal cargo ships with actual warships with your discussion. This is a Navy (i.e. warship) discussion.

Having read Gang Dengs's work, "Chinese Maritime Activity and Socioeconomic Development, 2100 BC to 1900" , I found his analysis is flawed and his conclusions incorrect.

1. He invalidly asumes a more or less constant rate of ship production. If the number of ships produced was 660, the something like that amount was produced the following year. That might not be the case. The production might be uneven, with a large batch produced one year and only a few next year. That would explain the spotty reporting of the amount , the years not reported produced too few ships to note.

2. If his assumption of course stsnt production was incorrect, then his estimatez of ship totals are way off. Perhaps by a magnitude.

Once one group of ships were built in a large batch. The replacements would have to be too. Steadily replacing the would result I ships replaced too soon or too late for the 10 year cycld you cited.

3. The Chinese did not have to keep the numbers constant in ship totals. An Emperor could decide not to replace ships as they reached their end of life, allowing the navy to shrink, then later decide to build it back up.

4. The numbers he gives for the Mongol fleet is far too large. On page 71, he says the Yuan fleet was 12,750 and the Ming was 5,500.

The Yuan total is early wrong, we know this because if the Yuan had that many ships, the Yuan would not have needed to hastily build up ships for the Japanese invasion, which we know they did. Archeology of the some of Mongol invasion fleer ships shows these ships have signs of being hastily built, and if the Chinese fleet was anywhere near the size claimed, there would have been no need to bud these ships.

5. His assumption for the average ship size of the Yuan and Ming ships.is far too high at 100 tons. It took 3,500 ships to transport 100,000 men in the Japanese invasion , about 28.5 men per ship on the average. The Mayflower carried 102 passengers, and was 180 tons, so adjusting the mass for fewer passengers gives an average of 50 tons for the Chinese ships. Thd Yuan used 800 ships to transport 30,000 men to Java, again giving 66 tons, far less than 100 tons. Note, if the100,00 and 30,000 also included sailors , the numbers would be lower yet, only 37 tons for the Japanese invasion ships.

We see the same results for the Ming ships. Gang also says on page 71 that Ming loyalist had 170,000 men on 8000 ships, implying ships of 37 tons on the average.

6. We know the Chinese have had a long history of exaggeration . The 450 ft size of the Zheng He treasure ships have shown to be not feasible and was not in the earliest accounts . Yet this figure was reported as fact in multiple dynasties and multiple sources. In 300 years, no Chinese called into question this exaggerated number. For more on this, see Sally Church article "Zheng He: An Investigation into the Plausibility of 450 FT Treasure Ships".

PS Gang said in his work that th Yuan had 8,000 grain families nd assuming 2.5 men family, that workdd out to 21,000 sailors and using 2.5 tons per man for grain ships, that only works out to 52,500 tons, no where near the tonnage Gang throws around elsewhere..

Switching topic,
When it comes to the Korean fleet, ship totals of 500 some.ships are mentioned for the 15th century, and 538 ships for the 17th century, but none for the 16th , when the Korean navy was needed most. In the Battle of Chilcheoyang, the Koreans only had 200 ships, most of their navy. It they had had the other 300 ships they had in the previous and following centuries, the Koreans might not have lost the battle.

Was an apparently temporary lapse in the strength of the Korean Navy a factor in the Japanese invasion?
 
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Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,534
United States
#58
Yes it was. A long period of relative peace as well as government corruption led to a lack of preparedness when the invasion finally came.
 

Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,534
United States
#60
From about 1800 on the Choson dynasty was nearing the end of its life as all dynasties do, it would have collapsed whether the Westerners and Japanese had intervened or not. But yeah, it so happened that they did intervene.

There were a few ships in existence during this time but I don't know how many, and those that were were probably in poor condition. During the American expedition in 1871 they had to recruit tiger hunters because they didn't have many if any troops readily available.
 
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