"My dear Captain Mahan," Roosevelt wrote to the author of a book he happened across in the summer of 1890: "During the last two days I have spent half my time, busy as I am, in reading your book; and that I found it interesting is shown by the fact that having taken it up I have gone straight through and finished it." Roosevelt's tastes in books were as decided as his tastes in everything else, but even for him he registered strong approval. "I can say with perfect sincerity that I think it very much the clearest and most instructive general work of the kind with which I am acquainted. It is a very good book--admirable; and I am greatly in error if it does not become a naval classic."
Alfred Thayer Mahan was an intellectual among military men, in the same way that Roosevelt was an intellectual among politicians. Neither man was a true intellectual, interested in ideas for the sake of ideas; rather, each man valued ideas for the influence they could exert on current affairs. Mahan taught history at the recently established Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Roosevelt had visited the college in the summer of 1888 at the invitation of its founder, Rear Admiral Stephen Luce, who knew Roosevelt's book on the naval war of 1812 and bet on its author as an up-and-coming political figure and potential patron of the college. Roosevelt spoke to the faculty and students on aspects of the material covered in his book; he also met Mahan.
At that time Mahan was polishing a set of lectures on naval power in history. He had received encouragement--in the form of research