Mahan, Alfred Thayer


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Mahan, Alfred Thayer

(məhăn`), 1840–1914, U.S. naval officer and historian, b. West Point, N.Y. A Union naval officer in the Civil War, he later lectured on naval history and strategy at the Naval War College, Newport, R.I., of which he was president (1886–89, 1892–93). Out of his lectures grew his two major works on the historical significance of sea power—The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783 (1890) and The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793–1812 (2 vol., 1892). In these he argued that naval power was the key to success in international politics; the nation that controlled the seas held the decisive factor in modern warfare. Mahan's work appeared at a time when the nations of Europe and Japan were engaged in a fiercely competitive arms race. His books were quickly translated into several languages and were widely read by political leaders, especially in Germany, where they were used as a justification for a naval buildup. In the United States, Theodore Roosevelt and other proponents of a big navy and overseas expansion were much influenced by Mahan's writings. Among his many works are biographies of David Farragut and Horatio Nelson and the autobiographical From Sail to Steam (1907, repr. 1968).

Mahan, Alfred Thayer

 

Born Sept. 27, 1840, in West Point, N. Y.; died Dec. 1, 1914, in Washington, D. C. American naval theorist and historian; rear admiral (1906).

Mahan graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1859 and fought in the Civil War of 1861–65 on the side of the North. He was president of the Naval War College in Newport, R. I., from 1886 to 1888 and from 1892 to 1893. He commanded a cruiser from 1893 to 1895 and retired in 1896. He served as a member of the Naval War Board in the Spanish-American War of 1898 and as a member of the American delegation to the first Hague Conference of 1899.

Mahan was the author of many works that contain an abundance of factual material to substantiate the lawlike regularity of wars and justify the aggressive wars of the USA. At the same time as the British theorist P. H. Colomb, he created and substantiated what was called the theory of sea power, in which the navy is considered the chief branch of the armed forces and is assigned the decisive role in any war. According to Mahan, to secure the command of the sea is the fundamental law of war and the only mission, which, when accomplished, will ensure victory over the enemy and world domination. Mahan’s theory, which reflected the political conception of the imperialist bourgeoisie, had a great influence on the development of the naval thinking of the USA and other imperialist states.

WORKS

Vliianie morskoi sily na istoriiu 1660–1783. Moscow-Leningrad, 1941. (Translated from English.)
Vliianie morskoi sily na frantsuzskuiu revoliutsiiu i imperiiu (1793–1812), vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940.
Sea Power in Its Relations to the War of 1812, vols. 1–2. London, 1905.

Mahan, Alfred Thayer

(1840–1914) naval officer, author; born in West Point, N.Y. He served in the Civil War and 20 years of routine sea duty before becoming a lecturer of naval history and tactics at the new Naval War College (1885). He twice served as the College's president (1886–89, 1892–93) and published numerous books; the best-known were The Influence of Sea Power upon History: 1660–1783 (1890) and The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793–1812 (1892). The books brought him an international readership and reputation; he was publicly honored by the British government and thoroughly studied by German naval officers. He was elected president of the American Historical Association (1902) and became a rear admiral on the retired list in 1906.
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