- Mahan, Alfred Thayer
- (1840–1914)A U.S. naval officer known for his histories of British naval power. He attended Columbia and the U.S. Naval Academy before being commissioned into the U.S. Navy at the beginning of the American Civil War. He was president of the U.S. Naval War College from 1886 to 1889, where he wrote The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1890) and the Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire (1892). Mahan retired from active service in 1896, and was subsequently promoted vice-admiral. His books argued that a blue water fleet such as Horatio Nelson’s could command the seas, thus giving control of global commerce to the primary naval power. He also argued, however, that possession of a naval fleet required a significant national merchant fleet, and he was quite pessimistic as to the prospects of his own country ever building such a merchant fleet. His books were widely read in Britain and Germany yet failed to stimulate any large-scale American shipbuilding, although they had some influence on Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Kaiser Wilhelm II. Mahan’s materialist approach to history saw commerce as a central component of power and was widely shared at the time, as was his view that a successful power must almost necessarily possess an overseas empire. He also advocated American expansion in the Pacific.See also <
>; < >; < >; < >.FURTHER READING:Beale, Howard K. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984;Keegan, John. The Price of Admiralty. London: Hutchinson, 1988;Mahan, A. T. The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783. London: Sampson, Low, Marston, 1890;Seager, Robert. Alfred Thayer Mahan: The Man and His Letters. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1977.MARK F. PROUDMAN
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.