Mackinder Forum Seminar #46: Professor Paul Rahe, “Carthage Can Now Defeat Rome”

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On December 19, 2021, Professor Paul Rahe addressed the Mackinder Forum Seminar on “Carthage Can Now Defeat Rome.”

Abstract: In 1890, when Alfred Thayer Mahan published The Influence of Seapower on History, he made no mention of Thucydides and barely touched on the great struggle between Athens and Sparta that the Athenian historian had chronicled. Instead, he cited the eighteenth-century political theorist Montesquieu. This is not fortuitous. Mahan’s theme was not the historical importance of tribute and maritime empire. It was the fiscal foundations for defense in modern times, the strategic significance of seaborne commerce, and the role that navies had played and would continue to play in protecting and suppressing that commerce. The first to draw attention to the role that seaborne commerce had come to play in strategic calculations was the late seventeenth-century merchant Nicholas Barbon, and the first to fully exploit his insights in a great treatise on the revolution underway in political affairs was Montesquieu. They were the founders of modern maritime strategy.

Biography: Paul A. Rahe holds The Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Chair in the Western Heritage at Hillsdale College and is the Roger S. Mertz Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is the author of Republics Ancient and Modern (1992), Against Throne and Altar (2008), Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty (2009), Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift (2009), and a series of books on the evolving grand strategy of ancient Sparta.

Reading: Paul Rahe, “Carthage Can Now Defeat Rome: Political Order, Seaborne Commerce, and the Projection of Power in Barbon & Montesquieu,” preprint.