The Foundations of Naval Science: Alfred Thayer Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power on History and the Library of Congress Classification System

Ellen E. Adams, Joshua F. Beatty

Abstract


This article is a history of the creation of the Naval Science class within the Library of Congress Classification System (LCCS) during that system’s fashioning and development at the turn of the twentieth century. Previous work on the history of classification and especially of the LCCS has looked closely at the mechanics of the creation of such systems and at ideological influences on classification schemes. Prior scholarship has neglected the means by which ideologies are encoded into classification systems, however. The present article examines the history of a single class by looking at the ideological and political assumptions behind that class and the means by which these assumptions were written into the LCCS. Specifically, we argue that the Naval Science class resulted from a concerted effort by naval theorists to raise their field to the status of a science, the interest of Washington’s political class in this new science as a justification for imperial expansion, and a publishing boom in naval matters as the American public became eager consumers of such work during the Spanish-American War. This complex narrative thus illustrates the manifold influences on the creation of any classification system and asks us to consider that multiplicity of influences, whether we as librarians teach about existing systems or work to build new ones.


Keywords


Alfred Thayer Mahan; classification; critical librarianship; Library of Congress; Library of Congress classification system; naval science

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Copyright (c) 2017 Ellen E. Adams and Joshua F. Beatty, CC BY 4.0

License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/