The Great Illusion
The Great Illusion is a book by Norman Angell
Norman Angell
Sir Ralph Norman Angell was an English lecturer, journalist, author, and Member of Parliament for the Labour Party.Angell was one of the principal founders of the Union of Democratic Control...

, first published in Britain in 1909 under the title Europe's Optical Illusion and republished in 1910 and subsequently in various enlarged and revised editions under the title The Great Illusion.

According to John Keegan
John Keegan
Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL is a British military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He has published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime, and intelligence warfare, as well as the psychology of battle.-Life and career:John...

 "Europe in the summer of 1914 enjoyed a peaceful productivity so dependent on international exchange and co-operation that a belief in the impossibility of a general war seemed the most conventional of wisdoms. In 1910 an analysis of prevailing economic interdependence, The Great Illusion, had become a best-seller; its author Norman Angell had demonstrated, to the satisfaction of almost all informed opinion, that the disruption of international credit inevitably to be caused by war would either deter its outbreak or bring it speedily to an end."

The "Great Illusion" of the title was the belief that there would soon be another major and destructive European war. At the time it was published, there was a naval
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

 arms race
Arms race
The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation...

 between Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, and there had been a vogue in Britain for novels imagining a future German invasion (for example, Erskine Childers' The Riddle of the Sands
The Riddle of the Sands
The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service is a 1903 novel by Erskine Childers. It is an early example of the espionage novel, with a strong underlying theme of militarism...

(1903) or William LeQueux's The Invasion of 1910
The Invasion of 1910
The Invasion of 1910 is a 1906 novel written mainly by William Le Queux . It is one of the more famous examples of Invasion literature and is an example of pre-World War I Germanophobia, as it preached the need to prepare for war with Germany.-Background:The novel was originally commissioned by...

(1906)). After Angell's book appeared, the flood of "invasion stories" stopped (one of the last was P. G. Wodehouse's 1909 parody The Swoop! or, How Clarence Saved England).

In 1914, Angell's theory was proved wrong by the outbreak of the Great War, which lasted for four years.

However, the book was updated and a new edition was published in 1933. In this version, Angell changed his initial argument slightly, he no longer proposed that economics would stop a war, or prevent its happening, but instead challenged that waging a war for economic reasons was a futile struggle, that a nation cannot enrich itself by a conquest of its neighbors. This new thesis earned him the Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 in 1933, and the economic state of Europe in the interwar era, as well as the Post War era, seemed to bring a new validity to his work.

See also

  • Grand Illusion
    Grand Illusion (film)
    Grand Illusion is a 1937 French war film directed by Jean Renoir, who co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Spaak. The story concerns class relationships among a small group of French officers who are prisoners of war during World War I and are plotting an escape.The title of the film comes from a...

    (1937), classic French film whose title was inspired by the book

External Links

Full text at Internet Archive
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