Seapower States: Maritime Culture, Continental Empires and the Conflict That Made the Modern World

by Andrew Lambert

Hardcover, 2018



Call number



Yale University Press (2018), 424 pages


One of the most eminent historians of our age investigates the extraordinary success of five small maritime states Andrew Lambert, author of The Challenge: Britain Against America in the Naval War of 1812-winner of the prestigious Anderson Medal-turns his attention to Athens, Carthage, Venice, the Dutch Republic, and Britain, examining how their identities as "seapowers" informed their actions and enabled them to achieve success disproportionate to their size. Lambert demonstrates how creating maritime identities made these states more dynamic, open, and inclusive than their lumbering continental rivals. Only when they forgot this aspect of their identity did these nations begin to decline. Recognizing that the United States and China are modern naval powers-rather than seapowers-is essential to understandingcurrent affairs, as well as the long-term trends in world history. This volume is a highly original "big think" analysis of five states whose success-and eventual failure-is a subject of enduring interest, by a scholar at the top of his game.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Shrike58
When I started this book I really didn't know what angle Lambert was going to adopt. To be honest, I mostly expected a boiler-plate examination of the sinews of naval power for the current age, with a particular eye on Beijing's maritime aspirations. I then get exposed to this somewhat labored
Show More
dichotomy between nations with a "seapower" culture, versus countries that simply have navies capable of offensive naval action; my reaction being okay, let's see what the author does with this.

One then goes through this looping examination of those disparate polities that Lambert holds had a "seapower" culture: Athens, Carthage, Venice, the Netherlands, and Britain. The argument being that only such states were the true creators of open societies, upon which we eventually wind up arriving at author's true concern; Great Britain's absorption into a European Union that to him is just a new form of German hegemony. Yes, this is mostly a pro-Brexit polemic. Keep in mind that I'm not convinced that the EU as it's been run has been all it's cracked up to be, and that since this book was probably finished about 2017, you could argue that I should give Lambert more benefit of the doubt. However, since it turns out that the Brexit skeptics were dead right about this being a disastrous move, mostly implemented on dishonest arguments, that result makes this book look like wishful thinking. Professional historians might have reason to read this book as a case study of when a smart person fails to rise above their own prejudices, but the general reader should give this work a wide berth.
Show Less


Original language


Physical description

424 p.; 6.5 inches


0300230044 / 9780300230048
Page: 0.3097 seconds