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Mahan, Alfred Thayer (1840–1914)

  • By: Jonathan Leib
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

A late-19th-century American naval strategist and historian, Alfred Thayer Mahan is best known for his geostrategic writings on the geopolitical importance of sea power.

Born in New York in 1840, Mahan graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served as a captain in the U.S. Navy. In 1885, Mahan was appointed a lecturer at the Naval War College. Mahan's lectures served as the basis for his most influential work, his 1890 book, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History. Mahan argued that global geopolitical success was based on a country's sea power through its control of the oceans. Highlighting the importance of commerce and economic power, Mahan argued that a state needed a large powerful navy to protect and control commercial sea lanes. In Mahan's view, ...

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