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Alfred Thayer Mahan

 

Date Born: 9/27/1840
Place of Birth: West Point, NY United States

Date Died: 12/1/0


Alfred Thayer Mahan (September 27, 1840 - December 1, 1914) was a United States Navy officer, geostrategist, and educator, widely considered the world's foremost theorist of military sea power. Several ships were named USS Mahan, including the lead vessel of a class of destroyers.

Born at West Point, New York to Dennis Hart Mahan (a professor at the United States Military Academy) and Mary Helena Mahan, he went to Columbia University for two years where he was a member of the Philolexian Society and then, against his parents' wishes, transferred to the Naval Academy, where he graduated second in his class in 1859.

Commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1861, Mahan served the Union in the American Civil War as an officer on Congress, Pocahontas, and James Adger, and as an instructor at the Naval Academy. In 1865 he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander, and then to Commander (1872), and Captain (1885). Despite his success in the Navy, his skills in actual command of a ship were not exemplary, and a number of vessels under his command were involved in collisions, with both moving and stationary objects.

He was appointed commander of the new United States Naval War College in 1886, where in 1887 he met and befriended a young visiting lecturer named Theodore Roosevelt. During this period Mahan organized his lectures into his most influential books, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783, and The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793-1812, published 1890 and 1892, respectively.

Mahan's thesis was that in the contests between France and England in the 18th century, domination of the sea via naval power was the deciding factor in the outcome, and therefore, that control of seaborne commerce was critical to domination in war. To a modern reader this may seem obvious, but the notion was much more radical in Mahan's time, especially in a nation entirely obsessed with landward expansion to the west.

His books were received with great acclaim, and closely studied in Britain and Germany, influencing their buildup of forces in the years prior to World War I. Mahan's influence sowed the seeds for events such as the naval portion of the Spanish-American War and the battles of Tsushima, Jutland and the Atlantic.

Between 1889 and 1892 he was engaged in special service for the Bureau of Navigation, and in 1893 Mahan was appointed to command the powerful new protected cruiser Chicago on a visit to Europe, where he was received and feted. He returned to lecture at the War College and then, in 1896, he retired from active service. He became Rear Admiral in 1906 by an act of Congress promoting all retired captains who had served in the Civil War.


Books by Alfred Thayer Mahan on Riapress.com

The Life of Nelson

By: Alfred Thayer Mahan





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The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future

By: Alfred Thayer Mahan




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The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783

By: Alfred Thayer Mahan


In the nautical equivalent of Gibbon's Decline and Fall, Mahan examines how military dominance of the seas determined nations' fortunes.


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Related Books on Riapress.com

Sea Warfare

By: Rudyard Kipling





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France at War

By: Rudyard Kipling





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Indian Unrest

By: Ignatius Valentine Chirol





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Author Bibliography

Books by Mahan
The Gulf and Inland Waters, 1883.
The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783, 1890.
The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793-1812, 1892.
Admiral Farragut, 1892.
The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future, 1899.
The Problem of Asia and Its Effect Upon International Policies, 1900.
Types of Naval Officers Drawn from the History of the British Navy, with Some Account of the Conditions of Naval Warfare at the Beginning of the Eighteenth Century, and of Its Subsequent Development During the Sail Period, 1901.
Sea Power in Its Relations to the War of 1812, 1905.
Naval Administration and Warfare: Some General Principles, with Other Essays, 1908.
Armaments and Arbitration; or, The Place of Force in the International Relations of States, 1912.
The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1805, abridged ed, 1980.

Books about Mahan
William E. Livezey, Mahan on Sea Power. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981.
W. D. Puleston, Mahan: The Life and Work of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1939.
Robert Seager, Alfred Thayer Mahan: The Man and His Letters. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1977.
Charles Carlisle Taylor, The Life of Admiral Mahan, 1920, London.