AHA President, 1902


US Navy

From the American Historical Review 20:2 (January 1915)

Rear-Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, USN retired (September 27, 1840–December 1, 1914), died on December 1 at Washington, where he had in November begun a period of association with the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Born in 1840 at West Point, the son of a distinguished professor of engineering familiar with French systems of scientific education, he was early trained to that remarkable clearness and directness of thought and expression which always distinguished him. His naval career, from the time of his entrance into the Naval Academy in 1856, has been described by himself, modestly but with great interest and in its proper setting of American naval history, in a most enjoyable book of reminiscences entitled From Sail to Steam (1907). In this he has described how the reading of Napier, the writing of a book on The Gulf and Inland Waters in our Civil War, and the call to lecture on naval history at the Naval War College founded in 1885, turned him to the career of the historian. His first great work, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783 (1890), may fairly be said to have achieved a greater influence upon the public mind of Europe and America than any other historical book of our generation. However largely the contemporary state of Europe may be responsible for such an effect, the book deserved its success when considered solely from the point of view of the historian, for the power of lucid thought, the penetration and insight, with which Captain Mahan extracted the meaning from history, are rare and impressive gifts, and his style, sinewy, direct, and simple, yet cultivated, was suited to the workings of a strong mind dealing with momentous themes. The same qualities, with fuller opportunities for research, marked The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire (1892), The Life of Nelson, the Embodiment of the Sea Power of Great Britain (1897), and Sea Power in its Relations to the War of 1812 (1905); but his first book had made his reputation secure. The fresh vista which it had opened into history could never be closed. In 1902 he was president of the American Historical Association. It was characteristic, that he chose as the theme of his presidential address “Subordination in Historical Treatment,” the necessity and method of such grouping and emphasis as should present in truthful proportions the central elements of the historian’s thought. Admiral Mahan was a man of elevated and religious character, of profitable and delightful conversation, modest, courteous, and lovable.



The influence of sea power upon history, 1660–1783. by Captain A. T. Mahan. Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1890; Reprint, New York: Dover Publications, 1987.

The life of Nelson, the embodiment of the sea power of Great Britain. By Captain A. T. Mahan. 2 vols. Boston, Little, Brown and company, 1897; Reprint, Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2001.

The problem of Asia and its effect upon international policies. By A.T. Mahan Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1900; Reprint with a new introduction by Francis P. Sempa. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2003.

The war in South Africa; a narrative of the Anglo-Boer war from the beginning of hostilities to the fall of Pretoria. By Captain A. T. Mahan with an introduction by Sir John G. Bourinot, New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1900.

The battle of Trafalgar. By Captain Alfred T. Mahan. Boston: Published for the Society, by Houghton, Mifflin, 1901.

Admiral Farragut. By Captain A.T. Mahan. New York: D. Appleton, 1901.

Retrospect and prospect; studies in international relations, naval and Political. By A. T. Mahan. Boston: Little, Brown, 1902.

Sea power in its relations to the War of 1812. By Captain A.T. Mahan. 2 vols. Boston: Little, Brown, 1905.

Naval administration and warfare: some general principles, with other essays. By Captain A. T. Mahan. Boston: Little, Brown, 1908.

The harvest within; thoughts on the life of the Christian. By A. T. Mahan. Boston: Little, Brown, 1909.

The interest of America in international conditions. By A. T. Mahan. Boston: Little, Brown, 1910, t.p. 1919.

Armaments and arbitration; or, The place of force in the international relations of states. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1912.

Lessons of the war with Spain, and other articles. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1970.

The Influence of history on Mahan: the proceedings of a conference marking the centenary of Alfred Thayer Mahan’s The influence of sea power upon history, 1660–1783. Edited by John B. Hattendorf. Newport, R.I.: Naval War College Press, 1991

Mahan on naval warfare; selections from the writing of Rear Admiral Alfred T. Mahan. Ed. by Allan Westcott. Boston, Little, Brown, 1918; Reprint, Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 1999.

Mahan on naval strategy: selections from the writings of Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan. By Alfred Thayer Mahan with an introduction by John B. Hattendorf, editor. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1991.

The interest of America in international conditions. By Alfred Thayer Mahan; with a new introduction by Francis P. Sempa. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2003.