History of Warships

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12300

The history of warships is, in a way, the history of technology as well as warfare. From wooden boats to floating fortresses with landing strips, warships have met the challenges of conflicts at sea!



learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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It seems humanity will always find more efficient, exciting, and energetic ways to fight wars. Warships are a great example of this.

Travel from the ancient past to today to learn about ships at sea!

Reading any history book, you will find stories about fighting and war.

Hopefully, we will one day live in a world of peace, but war is a significant part of history! People have fought on land, in the air, and on the internet!

One of the more clever ideas in war history was using boats to fight battles.

  • When did that idea come about?

Read a short description of naval history below — the history of using boats for war. As you read, write down the answers to these questions.

  • How long ago did people start to use ships for war?
  • How did people initially use ships to attack the enemy?
  • How did the materials used to build ships change over time?

Naval History

The history of fighting battles at sea started over 3,000 years ago. The Hittite people, the Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, the Persians, and the Chinese all used ships to fight in wars.

Ships were used primarily for trade, quickly moving goods from one place to another. Using warships, a country could cut off the supplies of other countries and gain power over them.

Since the earliest sea battles occurred before guns and cannons were invented, fighters often hooked the ships together and fought hand-to-hand as if on land.

Some ships came with a battering ram built in, and they would ram the enemy ships to try and sink them!

Steam power and metal used in construction changed how naval ships were made and used in the 1800s. Guns were finally used on ships and would be mounted along the ship's deck.

Submarines were first used in warfare during the American Civil War in the 1860s, and they carried torpedoes and underwater missiles used to sink ships!

Eventually, newer warships were made, including aircraft carriers — like an airport at sea! Ships were equipped with all kinds of radar and other location devices.

Navies have come a long way, from the simple wooden ships used hundreds of years ago to the floating fortresses now used today!

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After writing down the information you found, think about the following questions.

  • Was the beginning of naval history earlier or later than you were expecting?
  • What caused countries to use better and more robust materials to build ships?
  • What new technology and materials do you think will be used to build warships in the future?

Even in the past 300 years of American naval history, the design of ships has changed a lot!

In the Got It? section, explore some fantastic photo galleries showing the warships of America's past!

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