Alfred Thayer Mahan (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: Mahan’s monumental work The Influence of Sea Power upon History 1660-1805, published in 1890, argued the case for sea power as a decisive factor in history.
Alfred Thayer Mahan was born at West Point, New York, where his father, a noted authority on field fortifications and siege warfare, taught engineering at the military academy. Mahan graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1859. As a young lieutenant, he served as executive officer aboard the USS Pocahontas during the early part of the American Civil War. Mahan’s lack of attention on duty resulted in his ship colliding with another Union ship at anchor. Such accidents became characteristic of Mahan’s subsequent commands. While at sea, he was in a constant state of anxiety and very much preferred a life on land—in the classroom or pursuing a writing career. It was clear that his abilities did not suit him for work as a naval officer in command but as a strategist and historian.
After teaching at the newly formed Naval War College for a few months, he became president of the college in 1886. In 1890, Mahan published his electrifying and renowned work The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1805, which was based largely on his lectures at the college. In this major work, Mahan stressed the large and even decisive effect of sea power on the course of history and the prosperity of...
(The entire section is 597 words.)
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