Book Review-’21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Considerations for the Modern Era’ by B. F. Armstrong

By J.J.Widen, published November 2020


The American admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan is widely considered a classical thinker of seapower. Together with Julian S. Corbett and Philip H. Colomb, he embodies the so-called ‘golden age’ of naval thinking in the decades that preceded the First World War. While Colomb has been all but forgotten by contemporary readers of naval affairs, some of the works of Mahan and Corbett are still widely read in naval education and they still get a fair share of attention in naval debate, academic writing and maritime doctrines. This attention is mainly focused on their strategic principles (theory) rather than their historical works. Mahan has always suffered from the fact that he (in the words of Geoffrey Till) tended to write more than his audience was prepared to read. His books especially were often verbose, disjointed and excessively detailed. I remember well, for example, my own efforts in trying to absorb and comprehend his Naval Strategy Compared and Contrasted with the Principles and Practice of Military Operations on Land (written 1911), which left me both exhausted and confused. In some of his shorter articles and essays, however, Mahan was more in his right element. Here he was both readable and intellectually rewarding…

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Subjects include: Administration | Strategy & Diplomacy

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