Between 1890 and 1913, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan published a series of books on naval warfare in the age of sail, which won a wide readership in his own day and established his reputation as the founder of modern strategic history. But Mahan’s two principal arguments have been gravely misunderstood ever since, according to Jon Tetsuro Sumida. Instead of representing Mahan as an advocate of national naval supremacy, Sumida shows him asserting that only a multinational naval consortium could defend international trade. Instead of presenting Mahan as a man who adhered to strategic principles, Sumida shows that he stressed the importance of an officer’s judgment and character formed by the study of history.

Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command includes a subject index to all Mahan’s published books and an extensive bibliography. This is a book for scholars and students of military and strategic thinking and is a natural for libraries of U.S. service academies and U.S. armed services agencies and organizations.

Jon Tetsuro Sumida is associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, College Park, and a professional musician. He is the author of In Defence of Naval Supremacy: Finance, Technology, and British Naval Policy, 1889–1914. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in 1995–96.


Preface: Musical Performance, Zen Enlightenment, and Naval Command


Introduction: Resolving a Paradox

Chapter One: The Development of Professional Purpose, Geopolitical Vision, and Historical Technique

Chapter Two: Political, Political-Economic, and Governmental Argument in the “Influence of Sea Power” Series

Chapter Three: Strategic and Professional Argument in the “Influence of Sea Power” Series

Chapter Four: Strategic and Professional Argument in the Lesser Works

Chapter Five: National, Transnational, and International Politics

Chapter Six: The Uses of History and Theory


Select Analytical Index to the Writings of Alfred Thayer Mahan


“The book is one of the most important on Mahan and the nature of naval command and should be studied wherever naval command is studied.”—Lloyd’s List

“Sumida casts new light on one of the most important strategic writers of this century.”—Journal of Military History

“Jon Sumida’s masterful explication of Mahan’s thought stands out for its superb analysis, clarity and elegance of prose, masterful synthesis of the admiral’s entire work and its amazing compression. Hereafter, no one interested in American naval history, Mahan’s ideas, or the strategic role of sea power can rightly go without reading Sumida’s slim volume. In short, it is a masterpiece.”—Brian R. Sullivan, Joint Force Quarterly

“This is a brilliant and penetrating study which revises a great deal our commonly accepted assumptions about Mahan’s arguments on the influence of seapower and on naval strategy in general. It is certain to provoke great debate.”—Paul M. Kennedy, Dilworth Professor of History and Director, International Security Studies, Yale University