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The Influence of Sea Power Upon History by Alfred Thayer Mahan

The Influence of Sea Power Upon History by Alfred Thayer Mahan



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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Influence of Sea Power Upon History,1660-1783, by Alfred Thayer MahanThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.netTitle: The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783Author: Alfred Thayer MahanRelease Date: September 26, 2004 [eBook #13529][Date last updated: November 29, 2004]Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ASCII*** START OF PROJECT GUTENBERG'S INFLUENCE OF SEA POWER UPON HISTORY ***Scanned and proofread by A E Warren (aewarren2@aol.com)THE INFLUENCE OF SEA POWER UPON HISTORY, 1660-1783by Alfred Thayer MahanPREFACEThe definite object proposed in this work is an examination of thegeneral history of Europe and America with particular reference to theeffect of sea power upon the course of that history. Historiansgenerally have been unfamiliar with the conditions of the sea, havingas to it neither special interest nor special knowledge; and theprofound determining influence of maritime strength upon great issueshas consequently been overlooked. This is even more true of particularoccasions than of the general tendency of sea power. It is easy to sayin a general way, that the use and control of the sea is and has beena great factor in the history of the world; it is more troublesome toseek out and show its exact bearing at a particular juncture. Yet,unless this be done, the acknowledgment of general importance remainsvague and unsubstantial; not resting, as it should, upon a collectionof special instances in which the precise effect has been made clear,by an analysis of the conditions at the given moments.A curious exemplification of this tendency to slight the bearing of
maritime power upon events may be drawn from two writers of thatEnglish nation which more than any other has owed its greatness to thesea. "Twice," says Arnold in his History of Rome, "has there beenwitnessed the struggle of the highest individual genius against theresources and institutions of a great nation, and in both cases thenation was victorious. For seventeen years Hannibal strove againstRome, for sixteen years Napoleon strove against England; the effortsof the first ended in Zama, those of the second in Waterloo." SirEdward Creasy, quoting this, adds: "One point, however, of thesimilitude between the two wars has scarcely been adequately dwelt on;that is, the remarkable parallel between the Roman general who finallydefeated the great Carthaginian, and the English general who gave thelast deadly overthrow to the French emperor. Scipio and Wellingtonboth held for many years commands of high importance, but distant fromthe main theatres of warfare. The same country was the scene of theprincipal military career of each. It was in Spain that Scipio, likeWellington, successively encountered and overthrew nearly all thesubordinate generals of the enemy before being opposed to the chiefchampion and conqueror himself. Both Scipio and Wellington restoredtheir countrymen's confidence in arms when shaken by a series ofreverses, and each of them closed a long and perilous war by acomplete and overwhelming defeat of the chosen leader and the chosenveterans of the foe."Neither of these Englishmen mentions the yet more strikingcoincidence, that in both cases the mastery of the sea rested with thevictor. The Roman control of the water forced Hannibal to that long,perilous march through Gaul in which more than half his veteran troopswasted away; it enabled the elder Scipio, while sending his army fromthe Rhone on to Spain, to intercept Hannibal's communications, toreturn in person and face the invader at the Trebia. Throughout thewar the legions passed by water, unmolested and un-wearied, between Spain, which was Hannibal's base, and Italy, whilethe issue of the decisive battle of the Metaurus, hinging as it didupon the interior position of the Roman armies with reference to theforces of Hasdrubal and Hannibal, was ultimately due to the fact thatthe younger brother could not bring his succoring reinforcements bysea, but only by the land route through Gaul. Hence at the criticalmoment the two Carthaginian armies were separated by the length ofItaly, and one was destroyed by the combined action of the Romangenerals.On the other hand, naval historians have troubled themselves littleabout the connection between general history and their own particulartopic, limiting themselves generally to the duty of simple chroniclersof naval occurrences. This is less true of the French than of theEnglish; the genius and training of the former people leading them tomore careful inquiry into the causes of particular results and themutual relation of events.There is not, however, within the knowledge of the author any workthat professes the particular object here sought; namely, an estimateof the effect of sea power upon the course of history and theprosperity of nations. As other histories deal with the wars,politics, social and economical conditions of countries, touching uponmaritime matters only incidentally and generally unsympathetically, sothe present work aims at putting maritime interests in the foreground,
without divorcing them, however, from their surroundings of cause andeffect in general history, but seeking to show how they modified thelatter, and were modified by them.The period embraced is from 1660, when the sailing ship era, with itsdistinctive features, had fairly begun, to 1783, the end of theAmerican Revolution. While the thread of general history upon whichthe successive maritime events is strung is intentionally slight, theeffort has been to present a clear as well as accurate outline.Writing as a naval officer in full sympathy with his profession, theauthor has not hesitated to digress freely on questions of navalpolicy, strategy, and tactics; but as technical language has beenavoided, it is hoped that these matters, simply presented, will befound of interest to the unprofessional reader.A. T. MAHANDECEMBER, 1889.CONTENTSINTRODUCTORYHistory of Sea Power one of contest between nations, therefore largelymilitaryPermanence of the teachings of historyUnsettled condition of modern naval opinionContrasts between historical classes of war-shipsEssential distinction between weather and lee gageAnalogous to other offensive and defensive positionsConsequent effect upon naval policyLessons of history apply especially to strategyLess obviously to tactics, but still applicableNaval strategic combinations surer now than formerlyWide scope of naval strategyCHAPTER I.DISCUSSION OF THE ELEMENTS OF SEA POWER.The sea a great commonAdvantages of water-carriage over that by landNavies exist for the protection of commerceDependence of commerce upon secure seaportsDevelopment of colonies and colonial postsLinks in the chain of Sea Power: production, shipping, coloniesGeneral conditions affecting Sea Power:I. Geographical positionII. Physical conformationIII. Extent of territoryIV. Number of populationV. National characterVI. Character and policy of governmentsEngland

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