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Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 166

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  549 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Captain Mahan has written distinctively the best and most important, and also by far the most interesting, book on naval history which has been produced on either side of the water for many a long year. --Atlantic Monthly, October 1890

First published over a century ago, this classic text on the history and tactics of naval warfare had a profound effect on the training of o
Published August 31st 2003 by Pelican Publishing Company (first published January 1st 1918)
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Sep 15, 2014 11 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: woldview
This book has a revered place in the military history literary canon, and is said to have profoundly influenced British, American, Japanese and German naval strategy from World War 1 on. Theodore Roosevelt's showing of the American "Great White Fleet" from 1907- 1909 is in part attributed to the impact of Mahan's work.

This book can be roughly divided into three parts, so I will divide my review accordingly.

Part 1
The first hundred or so pages truly lived up to the title's promise: an analysis of
Sep 06, 2015 Rindis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, kindle
You could easily write a recursive book about the influence of The Influence of Sea Power Upon History upon history. Mahan wanted to show that navies decided wars, even between land powers, and many powerful and influential people listened. In the list of influential works on strategy it is probably number four, behind The Art of War, The Prince, and On War.

There's actually a few interrelated theses here. The primary one is the assertion that naval power is a deciding factor for everyone but the
I can't add anything significantly different to some of the reviews already posted. This edition of the work is very good and is a very interesting read. Strategically, many of Mahan's conclusions still apply today, even though he was writing with an eye to advocating for a larger navy and these conclusions are much more difficult to execute in the 21st century's shrinking U.S. Navy. Also, fleet on fleet engagements are a thing of the past. Mahan's emphasis on the navy leaves out the fact that w ...more
May 09, 2015 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, europe
Despite being over a hundred years old, Mahan's classic text on the importance of sea power in wartime is both accessible to the modern reader and applicable to modern naval thinking. In fact, I've been finding that many of these "ancient" historical texts are far more enjoyable than some of their contemporary counterparts (see my review of Henry Adams' History of the United States, Vols. I & II). Mahan takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the wars between the years 1660 and 1783, focusin ...more
Feb 22, 2008 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: core-library
It is not often that one can credibly claim to read a book that started a world war. Granted, Germany would have sought her "place in the sun" if Admiral Mahan had never been born; however, the race to match the British in capital ships ignited in Germany by "Influence" strained Anglo-German relations and gave the Entente Cordiale between France and Britain (and eventually the Triple Entente) space to grow.

This book is truly aimed at the naval historian. For the rest of us, Admiral Mahan's argum
Jun 12, 2012 Steven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful, and with lots of great analysis. Captain Mahan knows an unbelievable amount about history.

Unfortunately, the book is really hard to read, mostly because the book is written in the 19th century (although it reads as if it was written in the 16th), but also because Mahan tends to skip around a lot and make convoluted arguments. For example, the chapter dedicated to the Anglo-Dutch conflict in the 17th century devotes a lot of time to the French-Indian war of the late 18th century
Jan 31, 2015 Witek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Clinical in its description and analysis of how the sea power influenced the multitude of wars between England and mainly France, Spain and Netherlands in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. Written at the and of the 19th century, it was a major educational book for naval officers right until second world war profoundly changed the way we look at naval power. Still, some of it lessons, especially concerning the need to actively engage enemy naval forces instead of using the navy just to p ...more
Apr 15, 2008 Tami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Influence of Sea Power upon History: 1660-1783 is practically a historical document. The book's first copyright was in 1890 by Alfred Thayer Mahan. The copyright was transferred to Ellen Lyle Mahan in 1918 which eventually fell to the publisher who has published twelve editions of this book.

The style of the writing and the format of the text adhere to that of the original text and the traditional style. These aspects not only allow the reader insight and virtually unheard of detail about th
Tom Nysetvold
Jan 16, 2016 Tom Nysetvold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book presents a high-level overview of European history in the stated time period, with special emphasis on sea power, case studies of its use, etc. Offers an interesting perspective; identifies the importance of British trade and the royal navy to the various conflicts of the time and the ultimate rise of the Empire, contrasting it with errors in French naval policy.

(This book was apparently quite famous and influential in the early 20th century, and the ideas therein drove naval arms rac
Dec 04, 2012 Ken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite area of study is British naval history, so I am slightly biased in my opinions. I was interested to read this because it's from an American historian's perspective and was written before the United States was a major sea power. Very difficult book to read and I would only recommend it to students of history or one who has a serious interest in European naval history. Mahan is a very good source for battle analysis because he goes into much detail. The author made some very good point ...more
May 28, 2012 Henry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alfred Thayer Mahan was the son of a famous U.S. Army officer, Dennis Hart Mahan, who taught many years as a professor at West Point. Mahan's book, describing the importance of naval power in Western history, was very influential for some time after it was written. The German kaiser had a copy placed on board each German warship. In America, both presidents named Roosevelt read the book and each made sure that the Unites States continued to have a strong navy, which was particularly important du ...more
Mar 07, 2008 James rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Students of military and nautical history
One of the most influential books ever written; this book shaped grand strategy for great naval powers for decades, although some of its tenets have not proven true, probably because of the rise of technology Mahan had no way of anticipating, e.g. air power and small weapons that can render large, powerful warships impotent and vulnerable. It flowed well as history and many of the ideas are still reasonable; I suspect it even had some effect on the plot of the Star Wars film series with its batt ...more

A masterpiece of naval military history, few books have had as sharp and immediate an impact as this. A primary reason for aspiring world powers (think US, Germany & Japan) to focus on building superior navies headed into the 20th century and towards WWI (and repeated in WWII), this is simply one of the most influential military books ever written. One reason is the masterful skill which which the evidence is presented and evaluated and another is the brilliant simplicity of its conclusions.
Jul 25, 2008 Ben rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Any student of Naval War and History
Shelves: dead-tree
This book is certainly not an easy read but it rewards the readers effort with a multitude of insights into naval strategy and to a lesser degree grand national strategy. As a work of history it is somewhat lacking and Mahan's attempts to detail the particular actions of fleets are cumbersome and arcane. Some of mahan's strategical imperatives have been proven false by later events(America's recovery after pearl harbor) but even these have immense value in learning how to approach strategic thin ...more
Jun 03, 2014 B rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, kindle
This is one of many books written by an expert for experts under the guise of popularization.

If you do not know all the people and places and history that Mahan refers to, he's not very interested. But on the other hand, he's trying to relate such a basic thesis that it's hard to believe that it was very interesting or people who did know all of the British and French admirals stretching back three centuries.

Maybe it would have been better if this version had included all the maps and illustra
Shaped the world as it is today. Sea power is still today the foundation for American success, influence, and defense. No other nation even approaches our ability to control and secure the seas. This is a good thing. Our navy protects our shores from invasion and our merchant vessels from piracy. It also protects important sea lanes for trade around the world. Once again, no other nation has the capacity to fill this role. I believe our navy is larger than the next 9 nations combined, currently.
Oct 20, 2014 ADD rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tough to read. Long winded and disappointed he didn't actually draw conclusions after the case studies. It would be better titled "historical accounts of famous naval battles between 1660-1783 and the "office" politics that went with them"
I read this book as part of the supplemental reading for the Brady Johnson Program in Grand Strategy at Yale. The book has to things to offer. First, to students of grand strategy it's value is historical. The book was tremendously influential for nearly 100 years in defining naval strategy and grand strategy in the Anglo-American world. Second, to military history buffs of the age of sail, it offers a wealth of detail on particular engagements between some great admirals.
Howard Anders
Jul 13, 2013 Howard Anders rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was initially published in the 1890s, and soon found itself on the night stand of every head of state that was a major power, in Europe; the President of the US; and, a New York politician named Theodore Roosevelt. While ostensibly a naval history of the Colonial Age, it speaks loudly for the need for strong navies to protect international trade, including ports and shipping lanes. Captain Mahan's book may be dull history, but it is also excellent strategy.
Mar 09, 2015 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-general
My 3-star review is for the Kindle edition or really any edition without maps. The strategy portion of the book, the big picture approach promised by the title is excellent in its own right. But the majority of the book seems to focus on the tactics applied in specific battles or campaigns. An edition of the book that included maps to complement the descriptions of these naval battles would have the potential to merit 5 stars.
If you are interested in military strategy, and especially naval strategy and history, this is an important book to know about. I can see why it was so important historically, especially given the timing of its appearance. The actual argument, however, is not as clear as you might think and there is an aspect of overselling to this. That is OK - it is good to read one of the classics anyway.
Daniel Cornwall
Such a hard long slog, but useful points were made. Especially about the roots of sea power and how sometimes the best way to seize land is to hold the seas. Some of the book has been overtaken by technology such as ship tracking satellites, but many of the books overarching ideas make sense. Alas the actual accounts of sea battles were completely eye glazing to me.
John Comerford
On one hand, the book is somewhat dated. Mahan's interest in the fueling of ships is irrelevant in the age of the atom, and his interest in repair facilities may also be irrelevant when ships are firing long-range missels (sp?) at each other. Still, as a basic textbook of naval warfare, this will teach you much.
Aug 09, 2007 Thannasset rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the "books that changed the world"--and is always recommended to any amateur historians out there.
What I learned from this book: How a few small islands on the fringe of a continent (read Britain or Japan) could influence the whole world.
Apr 01, 2011 Rbolia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not particularly well written, often very boring account of the influence of what Mahan calls "sea power" upon history - primarily English history. The only reason to read it at all is that it was one of the most influentual books in history.
Jun 06, 2008 Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Basically THE book that set Naval Policy for the last part of the 19th Century and up thru the start of WWII. Ties the power of a nation to its navy and lead to the rapid development and building of battleships leading up to WWI.
Apr 21, 2009 Dan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Vague historical references and sweeping blanket statements do not a classic make. Don't buy the hype.

"If anyone was ever in need of a non-consensual bedazzling, it's Alfred Mahan."
Michael Kingswood
Jun 24, 2011 Michael Kingswood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meticulously detailed, he documents the major naval engagements in the time period he wrote about in an easy-to-read manner. Very interesting!
Fredrick Danysh
Aug 30, 2011 Fredrick Danysh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political, history
Mahan's benchmark work on naval warfare. It has been studied by naval academies and leaders since it was written.
Sep 05, 2014 Nate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A classic with lots of tactical details that are important historically, but with little application today.
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Alfred Thayer Mahan (September 27, 1840 – December 1, 1914) was a United States Navy flag officer, geostrategist, and historian, who has been called "the most important American strategist of the nineteenth century." His concept of "sea power" was based on the idea that countries with greater naval power will have greater worldwide impact; it was most famously presented in The Influence of Sea Pow ...more
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“The study of history lies at the foundation of all sound military conclusions and practice.” 7 likes
“The surer of himself an admiral is, the finer the tactical development of his fleet, the better his captains, the more reluctant must he necessarily be to enter into a melee with equal forces, in which all these advantages will be thrown away, chance reign supreme, and his fleet be place on terms of equality with an assemblage of ships which have never before acted together.” 4 likes
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