"Mahan, Corbett, and the Foundations of Naval Strategic Thought"

  • Subject: General Military & Naval History | Strategy | Summer 2024 Sale
  • Format:
  • Pages:
  • Illustrations:
    21 b/w illustrations and 11 b/w photos
  • Published:
    February 15, 2021
  • ISBN-10:
  • ISBN-13:
  • Product Dimensions:
    9 × 6 × 1 in
  • Product Weight:
    19 oz
Hardcover $44.95
Member Price $35.96 Save 20%
Book: Cover Type


At the turn of the twentieth century, Alfred Thayer Mahan and Julian Stafford Corbett emerged as foundational thinkers on naval strategy and maritime power. Important in their lifetimes, their writings remain relevant in the contemporary environment.

The significance of Corbett and Mahan to modern naval strategy seems beyond question, but too often their theories are simplified or used without a real understanding of their fundamental bases.Labeling a strategy, operation, or even a navy “Mahanian” or “Corbettian” tells very little. Mahan, Corbett, and the Foundations of Naval Strategic Thought provides an in-depth introduction and a means to stimulate discussion about the theories of Mahan and Corbett.

Although there is no substitute for opening the actual writings of Mahan and Corbett, this requires time, not just to read but most importantly to understand how states exploit the sea in the strategic sense. Mahan, Corbett, and the Foundations of Naval Strategic Thought takes the reader from their grand strategic foundations of sea power and maritime strategy, through their ideas about naval warfare and strategy, to how Mahan and Corbett thought a navy should integrate with other instruments of national power, and finally, to how they thought states with powerful navies win wars. This window into naval strategy provides twenty-first-century readers an understanding of what navies can and perhaps more importantly cannot do in the international environment. 

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

“Kevin McCranie has produced a brilliant synthesis, a long overdue examination of the maritime theorists whose works have informed the strategic decisions of the maritime states that have dominated world affairs for two centuries. McCranie has done for naval theory what Michael Handel did for Clausewitz and Sun Tzu.” —K.J. Delamer, fleet seminar professor, Naval War College
“This incisive analysis places the work of Mahan and Corbett, the founding fathers of naval and maritime strategic thought, in context. It highlights both the striking synergy of their ideas and arguments, and how the needs of the very different states in which they operated produced distinctly different texts.” —Andrew Lambert, laughton professor of Naval History, Kings College London, author of Seapower States
“In the 1990s it was fashionable for academics to muse about the ‘end of history’ as well as the ‘end of sea power.’ Nothing could have been further from the truth. Control of the world’s sea lanes remains as critical as ever to major states’ security. A century ago, two giants with differing perspectives dominated the field of maritime strategic thinking: Alfred Thayer Mahan and Julian Corbett. Their writings, McCranie wisely and critically reminds us today, transcend time. Well argued!” —Holger H. Herwig, professor emeritus and the author of “Luxury” Fleet, University of Calgary
“In a period of unprecedented technological changes four analysts sought to understand their impact on geostrategy: Mahan, Corbett, Mackinder, and Haushofer. Mahan and Corbett spoke to narrower audiences in often convoluted fashion, and their contributions have been less well understood. McCranie does an excellent job of retrieving their naval geostrategies.” –Peter J. Hugill, professor emeritus and fellow, Scowcroft Institute, Bush School, Texas A&M University
“A rich examination of these two extremely influential strategic thinkers, McCranie’s well-structured narrative grapples with the essence of Mahan’s and Corbett’s theories. By placing them in context and contrasting them against each other, McCranie analyzes their thinking in detail and draws insightful conclusions. Definitely recommended!” —Trent Hone, author of Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898-1945 and co-author of Battle Line: The United States Navy, 1919-1939
“McCranie’s book is invaluable for understanding Mahan’s and Corbett’s ideas and so focusing the reader’s thoughts on the underlying concept of each idea.” —Australian Naval Institute
“A classic book is one that is read and discussed for generations after its initial publication. We continue to discover something intellectually stimulating in it, despite the passing of time and the changing of circumstances. A classic, that is, is timeless because it points to some enduring principles or truths and develops our prudential judgment by forcing us to consider how to apply them to our own circumstances. The writings of Alfred Thayer Mahan and Julian Corbett, two foundational thinkers of maritime strategy at the turn of the last century, are such classics in the field of naval strategic thought. And Kevin McCranie, professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College, does them justice in his new book in which he lays out their arguments and analyzes their influence.” —Orbis
“McCranie’s work can launch current and future naval leaders toward the mastery of the principles of naval strategy and the genius to know when to break the rules. Reinforcing the value of critical thinking, an understanding of history, and an appreciation of the use and abuse of theory in naval affairs, comprehending the depth and breadth of the work of the two great naval historian-strategists will continue to prepare naval strategists for the present and the future.” —War on the Rocks