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Norman Angell

Ralph Norman Angell
Born Ralph Norman Angell Lane
(1872-12-26)26 December 1872
Holbeach, England
Died 7 October 1967(1967-10-07) (aged 94)
Croydon, Surrey, England
Nationality British
Occupation lecturer, journalist, author, politician
Known for Nobel Peace Prize (1933)

Sir Ralph Norman Angell (26 December 1872 – 7 October 1967) was an English lecturer, journalist, author, and Member of Parliament[1] for the Labour Party.

Angell was one of the principal founders of the Union of Democratic Control. He served on the Council of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, was an executive for the World Committee against War and Fascism, a member of the executive committee of the League of Nations Union, and the president of the Abyssinia Association. He was knighted in 1931 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933.[2]


  • Biography 1
  • The Great Illusion 2
  • The Money Game 3
  • Influence 4
  • Works 5
  • Further reading 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Angell was one of six children, born to Thomas Angell Lane and Mary (née Brittain) Lane in Holbeach, Lincolnshire, England.[2] He was born Ralph Norman Angell Lane, but later adopted Angell as his sole surname. He attended several schools in England, the Lycée de St Omer in France,[2] and the University of Geneva, while editing an English-language newspaper published in Geneva.[2]

In Geneva, Angell felt that Europe was "hopelessly entangled in insoluble problems". Then, still only 17, he took the bold decision to emigrate to the West Coast of the United States,[2] where he for several years he worked as a vine planter, an irrigation-ditch digger, a cowboy, a California homesteader (after filing for American citizenship), a mail-carrier for his neighbourhood, a prospector,[3] and then, closer to his natural skills, as a reporter for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and later the San Francisco Chronicle.[2]

Due to family matters he returned to England briefly in 1898, then moved to Paris to work as a sub-editor on the English language Daily Messenger,[3] and then as a staff contributor to the newspaper Éclair. He also through this period acted as French correspondent for some American newspapers, to which he sent dispatches on the progress of the Dreyfus case.[2] During 1905-12, he became the Paris editor for the Daily Mail. Back in England by the start of WWI, he was one of the founders of the Union of Democratic Control. In 1920 he joined the Labour Party in 1920 and was MP for Bradford North from 1929 to 1931. In 1931 he was knighted for his public service, and later in 1933 he was presented with the Nobel Peace Prize.[2]

From the mid-1930s, Angell actively campaigned for collective international opposition to the aggressive policies of Germany, Italy, and Japan. He went to the United States in 1940 to lecture in favour of American support for Britain in World War II, and remained there until after the publication of his autobiography in 1951. He later returned to Britain and died at the age of 94 in Croydon, Surrey.[3]

The Great Illusion

Angell is most widely remembered for his 1909 pamphlet, Europe's Optical Illusion, which was published the following year (and many years thereafter) as the book, The Great Illusion. (The anti-war film La Grande Illusion took its title from his pamphlet.) The thesis of the book was that the integration of the economies of European countries had grown to such a degree that war between them would be entirely futile, making militarism obsolete. This quotation from the "Synopsis" to the popular 1913 edition summarizes his basic argument.

He establishes this apparent paradox, in so far as the economic problem is concerned, by showing that wealth in the economically civilized world is founded upon credit and commercial contract (these being the outgrowth of an economic interdependence due to the increasing division of labour and greatly developed communication). If credit and commercial contract are tampered with in an attempt at confiscation, the credit-dependent wealth is undermined, and its collapse involves that of the conqueror; so that if conquest is not to be self-injurious it must respect the enemy’s property, in which case it becomes economically futile. Thus the wealth of conquered territory remains in the hands of the population of such territory. When Germany annexed Alsace, no individual German secured a single mark’s worth of Alsatian property as the spoils of war. Conquest in the modern world is a process of multiplying by x, and then obtaining the original figure by dividing by x. For a modern nation to add to its territory no more adds to the wealth of the people of such nation than it would add to the wealth of Londoners if the City of London were to annex the county of Hertford.[4]

The Money Game

Angell was also the designer of something called The Money Game, a visual method of teaching schoolchildren the fundamentals of finance and banking. First published in 1928 by J. M. Dent & Sons, The Money Game, How to Play It: A New Instrument of Economic Education was both a book and a game. The bulk of the book was an essay on money and a discussion of economic theory, it also contained a summary of the game's story and an explanation of the rules.[5]


Angell's book The Press And The Organisation of Society is cited as a source in F. R. Leavis' pamphlet Mass Civilisation and Minority Culture (1930).[6] Vera Brittain quoted Angell's statement on "the moral obligation to be intelligent" several times in her work.[7]


  • Patriotism under Three Flags: A Plea for Rationalism in Politics (1903)
  • Europe's Optical Illusion (First ed.), London, UK: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., 1909, p. 126, retrieved 12 December 2012 
  • The Great Illusion: A Study of the Relation of Military Power in Nations to their Economic and Social Advantage (First ed.), New York: G.P. Putnam's & Sons, 1910, p. 335, retrieved 12 December 2012 
  • America and the New World State (in U.S., 1912)
  • War and the Workers (1913)
  • Peace Theories and the Balkan War (PDF) (First ed.), London, UK: Horace Marshall & Son, 1912, retrieved 12 December 2012 
  • The Foundations of International Polity (First ed.), London, UK: William Heinemann, 1914, p. 235, retrieved 12 December 2012 
  • America and the New World-State. A Plea for American Leadership in International Organization (First ed.), New York & London, UK: G.P. Putnam's & Sons, 1915, retrieved 12 December 2012 
  • The Problems of the War – & the Peace: A Handbook for Students (First ed.), London, UK: William Heinemann, 1915, p. 99, retrieved 12 December 2012 
  • The World's Highway (1916)
  • The Dangers of Half Preparedness (1916, in U.S.)
  • War Aims: The Need for a Parliament of the Allies (1917)
  • Why Freedom Matters (1917)
  • The Political Conditions of Allied Success: A Protective Union of the Democracies (1918, in U.S.)
  • The Treaties and the Economic Chaos (1919)
  • The British Revolution and the American Democracy (1919)
  • The Fruits of Victory: A Sequel to "The Great Illusion" (First ed.), London, UK: W. Collins Sons & Co., 1921, p. 338, retrieved 12 December 2012 
  • The Press and the Organization of Society (1922)
  • If Britain is to Live (1923)
  • Foreign Policy and Human Nature (1925)
  • Must Britain Travel the Moscow Road? (1926)
  • The Public Mind: Its Disorders: Its Exploitation (1927)
  • The Money Game: Card Games Illustrating Currency (1928)
  • The Story of Money (First ed.), Garden City, NY: Garden City Pub. Co., 1929, retrieved 12 December 2012 
  • Can Governments Cure Unemployment? (1931, with Harold Wright)
  • From Chaos to Control (1932)
  • The Unseen Assassins (1932)
  • The Great Illusion—1933 (1933)
  • The Menace to Our National Defence (1934)
  • Preface to Peace: A Guide for the Plain Man (1935)
  • The Mystery of Money: An Explanation for Beginners (1936)
  • This Have and Have Not Business: Political Fantasy and Economic Fact (1936)
  • Raw Materials, Population Pressure and War (1936, in U.S.)
  • The Defence of the Empire (1937)
  • Peace with the Dictators? (1938)
  • Must it be War? (1938)
  • The Great Illusion—Now (1939)
  • For What do We Fight? (1939)
  • You and the Refugee (1939)
  • Why Freedom Matters (1940)
  • America's Dilemma (1941, in U.S.)
  • Let the People Know (1943, in U.S.)
  • The Steep Places (1947)
  • After All: The Autobiography of Norman Angell (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1951; rpt. New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1952). [Out of print.]

Further reading

  • Martin Ceadel, Living the Great Illusion: Sir Norman Angell, 1872–1967; Oxford University Press, 2009
  • J D B Miller, Norman Angell and the Futility of War; Macmillan, 1986
  • Michael Meadowcroft, Norman Angell in Brack & Randall (eds.) The Dictionary of Liberal Thought; Politico's, 2007, pp. 9–11

See also


  1. ^ National Archives
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Angell biography,; accessed 11 September 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Ball State University
  4. ^ Norman Angell, The Great Illusion, (New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1913), pp. x–xi.
  5. ^ Christine Riggle (22 March 2012). "How Depression-Era Children Learned About Money". Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  6. ^ Deane, Patrick (1998). History in our hands: a critical anthology of writings on literature, culture, and politics from the 1930s. London, UK: Leicester University Press. pp. 17, 20.  
  7. ^ Brittain, Vera (1951). Search After Sunrise. Macmillan. p. 19. 

External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Norman Angell
  • OMD 5620: Nobel Peace Prize Gold Medal 1933,
  • "Sir Norman Angell: The Nobel Peace Prize 1933: Biography",; accessed 20 October 2007
  • Archival material relating to Norman Angell listed at the UK National Archives
  • Sir Norman Angell Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries (PDF)
  • Works by Norman Angell at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Norman Angell at Internet Archive
  • Works by Norman Angell at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Norman Angell, On Human Nature (1913)
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Eugene Ramsden
Member of Parliament for Bradford North
Succeeded by
Eugene Ramsden
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