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The emergence and proliferation of extensive steel production in early Industrial Europe soon meant that it was also being used more extensively especially in a military application.

Unsurprisingly, this had a profound effect on naval technology. In comparison to bronze or iron, steel — now released of the strictures of rarity and high cost — soon found itself being used, first in swords and cannon, as well as gun barrels, and eventually in shipbuilding. Steel was stronger than iron, and with its (now) low cost it meant that it was now possible to build warships of a relatively small size that were still nevertheless capable of dealing serious damage thanks to the strength of their construction.

The first such ship was the Esmeralda (later renamed Izumi by her Japanese purchasers). While Esmeralda continued to carry masts and broadside guns, she was also notable for a new addition — armoured decks, which made her more resistant to surface attacks. Tensions at the end of the 19th century meant that the construction and design of cruisers would soon follow suit, eventually resulting in the creation of heavier vessels, such as the battle cruiser and the dreadnought.

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