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Mahan, a "Place in the Sun," and Germany's Quest for Sea Power

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In 1897 German chancellor Bernhard von Bulow told the Reichstag, "We do not want to put anyone into the shade, but we demand a place for ourselves in the sun." The ensuing quest for a "place in the sun," connoting both new colonial holdings and a belt of naval stations ringing the world, inaugurated a vigorous, largely ahistorical pursuit of German sea power. An American naval officer, Alfred Thayer Mahan, prodded the Germans into this break with their tradition of continental power. This paper examines the link between Mahanian sea-power theory and the German concept of a place in the sun prior to the First World War. It contends that the use and misuse of Mahan helped propel Germany into zero-sum competition with Great Britain. It also warns that today's rising powers may embark on a similar pursuit of sea power, posing a challenge to U.S. military strategy in Asia.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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