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Riddle of the Sands

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Last week at APSA I chaired a panel on IR Theory and Grand Strategy.  I discuss one of the papers in this week’s WPR column:

In 1903, the novel “Riddle of the Sands” was published to great acclaim in the United Kingdom. Written by Erskine Childers, the novel told the story of a secret German invasion flotilla prepared to overrun Great Britain. The best of a large genre of “invasion literature” warning in dire terms of the threat that Kaiserine Germany posed to the British Empire, “Riddle of the Sands” apparently helped convince First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill to reposition the Royal Navy to northern bases, safe from German attack.

In a paper presented at the 2011 American Political Science Association conference, Dr. Kelly Greenhill invoked the example of “Riddle of the Sands” in support of an argument about the impact of fiction on strategic thought. Greenhill’s paper, part of a larger book project, is one of a growing family of academic literature to study the interaction of popular culture and state policy.

I downloaded Riddle of the Sands to Stanza on my iPad during the presentation, and read most of it on the plane trip home. Recommend. On roughly the same subject, see Erich Simmers’ response to my short article on last semester’s COIN class.

Interestingly enough, Erskine Childers and Hugh Trenchard share a biographer (Andrew Boyle).  I haven’t had the opportunity to read Boyle’s bio of Childers, but the book on Trenchard is quite good, if more than a touch on the side of the airpower evangelists.

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