Sir Norman Angell


Sir Norman Angell

Ralph Norman Angell Lane (December 26, 1872-October 7, 1967)1 was one of six children of Thomas Angell Lane and Mary (Brittain) Lane. Raised in a well-to-do but unpretentious Victorian household in Holbeach in Lincolnshire, England, he was influenced by his older sister Carrie and by extensive reading of such authors as Herbert Spencer, Huxley, Voltaire, and Darwin. He discovered Mill’s «Essay on Liberty» at the age of twelve and for a long time considered it his prime source of intellectual excitement.

Having attended elementary schools in England, the Lycée de St. Omer in France, a business school in London, and – while editing a biweekly English paper published in Geneva – a year of courses at the University of Geneva, he became convinced that the Old World was hopelessly entangled in insoluble problems. At seventeen, then, he decided to emigrate to America. The young man headed directly for the West Coast of the United States, where for seven years he worked as a vine planter, an irrigation-ditch digger, a cowpuncher, a California homesteader (after filing for American citizenship), a mail-carrier for his neighborhood, a prospector, and, finally, a reporter for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and later the San Francisco Chronicle.

After tending to some family affairs which had called him back to England in 1898, Angell went to Paris where he engaged in newspaper work, first as sub-editor of the English language Daily Messenger, then as staff contributor to Éclair. Meanwhile he acted as correspondent for some American papers to which he sent dispatches on the progress of the Dreyfus case. His experience with the American temper in the Spanish-American War, with French chauvinism in the Dreyfus affair, and with British jingoism in the Boer War prompted his first book Patriotism under Three Flags: A Plea for Rationalism in Politics (1903). In 1905, Angell accepted the editorship of the Paris edition of Lord Northcliffe’s Daily Mail, resigning in 1912 to devote himself completely to writing and lecturing. Angell had by that time become famous.

In 1909 he had published a small book, Europe’s Optical Illusion, using for the first time the name Norman Angell which he later legalized. In 1910 he expanded this work considerably, retitling it The Great Illusion. This book as translated into twenty-five languages, sold over two million copies, and gave rise to a theory popularly called «Norman Angellism». This theory, as stated in the book’s Preface, holds that «military and political power give a nation no commercial advantage, that it is an economic impossibility for one nation to seize or destroy the wealth of another, or for one nation to enrich itself by subjugating another». In the next forty-one years, Angell published forty-one books distinguished for their rationality, clarity, painstaking analysis of fallacies, and earnestness tempered by good humor. His The Fruits of Victory (1921) shows how the results of World War I bore out the propositions explained in The Great Illusion; The Money Game (1928) unmasks the economic warfare which has its roots in the «mercantilist illusion», a misunderstanding of the nature of money, and explains a card game he had invented to make currency problems «visual»; The Unseen Assassins (1932) analyzes some of the implications of patriotism, nationalism, and imperialism and discusses the problem of educating the common man; The Great Illusion: 1933 (1933) applies the thesis of 1909 to 1933 and states the case for cooperation as the basis for civilization; The Menace to Our National Defence (1934) proposes internationalization of civil aviation and collective defense by the air arm; The Great Illusion – Now (1938) updates his basic conception once again; Peace with the Dictators? (1938) deals with the theme of collective security; The Steep Places (1947) probes the limitations of national sovereignty in an organized society; After All (1951) is the urbane autobiography of a man, adventurous and evangelical, yet studious and reasonable, who is still looking for the formula that will enable men to achieve international peace.

Meanwhile, he wrote regularly for newspapers and journals and from 1928 to 1931 edited Foreign Affairs. But he did not confine his activity to the writing desk. From 1929 to 1931 he was a Labor member of Parliament and member of the Consultative Committee of the Parliamentary Labor Party, but declined to stand for reelection because he felt «better fitted to present the case for internationalism to the public direct, freed from party ties». He was knighted for public service in 1931. He was a member of the Council of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, an executive of the Comité mondial contre la guerre et le fascisme [World Committee against War and Fascism], an active member of the Executive Committee of the League of Nations Union, and president of the Abyssinia Association. For over half a century, he traveled the «lecture circuit» almost every year; at the age of ninety he went on a two-month lecture tour of the United States.

Angell was a slightly built man, about five feet tall, ascetic of countenance, patient and courteous in manner. A lifelong bachelor, he died at ninety-four in a home for the aged in Croydon, Surrey.

Selected Bibliography
Angell, Norman, After All: The autobiography of Norman Angell. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1951.
Angell, Norman, America and the New World-State: A Plea for American Leadership in International Organization. New York and London, Putnam, 1915.
Angell, Norman, America’s Dilemma: Alone or Allied? New York and London, Harper, 1940.
Angell, Norman, Arms and Industry: A Study of the Foundations of International Policy. New York and London, Putnam, 1914.
Angell, Norman, The Defence of the Empire. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1937.
Angell, Norman, Europe’s Optical Illusion. London, Simpkin, Marshall, 1909.
Angell, Norman, For What Do We Fight? London, Hamish Hamilton, 1939.
Angell, Norman, From Chaos to Control. London, Allen and Unwin, 1933.
Angell, Norman, The Fruits of Victory: A Sequel to «The Great Illusion ». London, Collins, 1921.
Angell, Norman, The Great Illusion: A Study of the Relation of Military Power in Nations to Their Economic and Social Advantage. London, Heinemann, 1910.
Angell, Norman, The Great Illusion: 1933. London, Heinemann, 1933.
Angell, Norman, The Great Illusion-Now. Harmondsworth (England), Penguin, 1938.
Angell, Norman, Let the People Know. New York, Viking Press, 1943.
Angell, Norman, The Menace to Our National Defence. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1934.
Angell, Norman, The Money Game: How to Play It. London, Dent, 1928.
Angell, Norman, Patriotism under Three Flags: A Plea for Rationalism in Politics. London, Unwin, 1903.
Angell, Norman, Peace with the Dictators? A Symposium and Some Conclusions. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1938.
Angell, Norman, Preface to Peace: A Guide for the Plain Man. London, Harnish Hamilton, 1935.
Angell, Norman, The Public Mind: Its Disorders, Its Exploitation. London, Douglas, 1926.
Angell, Norman, The Steep Places: An Examination of Political Tendencies. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1947.
Angell, Norman, This Have and Have-Not Business: Political Fantasy and Economic Fact. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1936.
Angell, Norman, The Unseen Assassins. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1932.
Coulton, George G., The Main Illusions of Pacifism: A Criticism of Mr. Norman Angell and of the Union of Democratic Control. Cambridge, Bowes & Bowes, 1916.
Jones, John Harry, The Economics of War and Conquest: An Examination of Mr. Nornan Angell’s Economic Doctrines. London, King, 1915.
Rifleman, pseud. [i.e. V. W. Germains], The Struggle for Bread: A Reply to «The Great Illusion» and Enquiry into Economic Tendencies. London, Lane, 1913.

1. Sources differ on birth date. The one used here has been confirmed by Eric A. Lane, Angell’s nephew, and is the one inscribed on a memorial stone at Holbeach.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1926-1950, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1933

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