The Great Illusion

The Great Illusion - Norman Angell

I am not an economist, politician, historian, nor do I have an academic background in international relations. Do I need to in order to simply enjoy The Great Illusion as a work of its time?


The Great illusion makes for a strange read. Angell has some very good points, well structured arguments and touches on the great fears of the pre-war nations. Pre-WW I, that is. Yet, this is where it becomes difficult: On every point that Angell uses as an argument of why there is very little risk of an impending war, history has obviously argued against him - and won.


Angell does not only look at the popular sentiments of his time from the British perspective but also tries to include the views of French and German arguments by citing numerous newspapers and other publications. The question I had, though, is how representative those sources were, because, again, history has taught us that they were mistaken.   


The Great Illusion is still a good read. Despite of its obvious misconceptions, it offers a detailed insight into both the fears of the generation that will lose itself in the Great War but it also offers an insight into the idealism and the optimism that was still held by a liberal minority. 


So, it may well be that the underlying arguments are flawed from an economist or academic point, but it does not really detract from the book. Not when reading it almost 100 years after its original publication. The benefit afforded to the reader by hindsight makes up for these theoretical flaws.

What remains though is a passionate argument against war based sense and reason rather than emotion. Quite a different read to much else that seems to have been written at Angell's time.