Alfred Thayer Mahan

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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(8.) Alfred Thayer Mahan, "The United States Looking Outward," Atlantic Monthly 66, no.
In fact, it is unclear whether Mahan was aware of Clausewitz's "critical analysis." Nevertheless, he developed an approach to teaching high command that was very similar to "critical analysis." For more on the relationship between Clausewitz and Mahan, see Jon Sumida, Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command: The Classic Works of Alfred Thayer Mahan Reconsidered, 113.
During the first, students read classic works by Carl von Clausewitz, Julian Corbett, Antoine Henri Jomini, Thucydides, Sun Tzu, Alfred Thayer Mahan, and so forth, exploring the foundations of military theory and analyzing the decision-making process with regard to strategy.
Indian power projection in both western and eastern Indian Ocean waters is growing, thereby pursuing a Mahanian approach for dominance of the maritime sphere, named after US Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, rather than a Nehruvian approach.
The second course of study, Strategy and War (S&W), views various periods of history, tying military theorists like Alfred Thayer Mahan and Sir Julian Corbett.
Alfred Thayer Mahan, whose landmark book The Influence of Seapower Upon History remains in demand more than a century after it was written.
Alfred Thayer Mahan, who argued that the nation that controls the seas holds the decisive factor in war.
ALFRED THAYER MAHAN, THE PREMIER American theorist of naval strategy, describes Admiral Horatio Nelson as "the one man who in himself summed up and embodied the greatness of the possibilities which Sea Power comprehends." Mahan's own biography of Nelson (1897) formed an integral part of his masterful and widely read studies of "the influence of sea power upon history," as viewed through the prism of the long series of Anglo-French wars in the period from 1660 to 1815.
A century ago, a renowned military and naval strategist, Alfred Thayer Mahan, said:
First Great Triumph focuses its gaze far from economics, on the brains-and-action trust--Teddy Roosevelt, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Secretary of State John Hay, and War Secretary Elihu Root--who strove with greater purpose than any other Americans of their time to create an empire.
Geoffrey Till follows with discussion of Sir Julian Corbett, and John Hattendorf similarly with Alfred Thayer Mahan. Andrew Lambert surveys British naval problems and opportunities of the half-century leading to 1914.