Courtesy Reuters

Mahan's "the Problem of Asia"

The Future in Retrospect


CAPTAIN ALFRED THAYER MAHAN'S "The Problem of Asia" was published in 1900. Viewed in the perspective of thirty-five years it takes on the attributes of an intellectual landmark. Mahan had retired from the navy in 1896, but had been recalled to serve on the board of naval strategy during the Spanish American War. His fame rested securely upon a series of well-known works, beginning with "The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783," published in 1890. He was rapidly becoming one of those characters so much revered in the United States, an "authority." Although only sixty, he was beginning to pontificate. An atmosphere of omniscience, of which scholars and teachers may well beware, pervades "The Problem of Asia."

"The Problem of Asia" consists of five chapters. The first three were prepared in the autumn and winter of 1899 after Mahan's return from the so-called Peace Conference at The Hague which he had attended as a member of the United States delegation. These chapters were published as articles in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in the spring of 1900, in the interval between John Hay's "open door" notes of September 1899 and the seige of the Peking Legations which marked the climax of the Boxer Rebellion. The fourth chapter, entitled "Effect of Asiatic Conditions upon World Politics," published in November as an article in The North American Review, was written in August, apparently just prior to the relief of the Legations. There was also a fifth chapter, less germane to the main topic of the book, entitled "Merits of the Transvaal Dispute."

Though there is little documentary evidence to support the assertion, it seems probable that Mahan was seeing Secretary of State John Hay rather frequently during the period in which these essays were in course of preparation. It is also probable that he enjoyed the Secretary's confidence to such an extent as to have become broadly familiar with the information which McKinley

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.