Sunday, 30 October 2016

Invasion literature

In a recent blog entry I wrote about the book IF IT HAD HAPPENED OTHERWISE. In reply to one comment I mentioned that I had several examples of late nineteenth/early twentieth century 'invasion literature' on my Kindle, and as I thought that some of my regular blog readers would like some information about these stories.

My collection includes the following:
  • THE BATTLE OF DORKING (1871) by George Tomkyns Chesney. This story describes the successful invasion of England by an unnamed – but German-speaking – enemy and the aftermath of the war.
  • THE GREAT WAR IN ENGLAND IN 1897 (1894) by William Le Quex. In this book Britain is taken by surprise and invaded by France and Russia. The invasion is at first successful, and reaches London, but eventually the British – with the aid of the Germans who come to their aid – utterly defeat the invaders. The end result is the degradation of the French and Russians, who lose territory in Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia to the victors.
  • THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS (1903) by Erskine Childers. Although this is more a spy story and not about an actual invasion, it does describe the preparations for a ‘sudden descent’ invasion by Germany on England’s East Coast.
  • THE INVASION OF 1910 (1906) by William Le Queux and H W Wilson. Although it was written only twelve years after his earlier book, the enemy has changed and it is the Germans who mount an invasion on the East Coast of England. Despite attempts to stop their advance – which culminates with a battle near Royston on the border of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire – the unprepared British are pushed back and the Germans are able to reach London. The repressive measures they use to try to maintain peace in the capital, coupled with resistance by the so-called ‘League of Defenders’, culminates in a popular uprising. The newly re-organised and enlarge British Army, which has been raised in the unoccupied part of Britain, advances on London and the Germans are forced to retreat.
  • WHEN WILLIAM CAME: A STORY OF LONDON UNDER THE HOHENZOLLERNS (1913) by Saki (the pseudonym of Hector Hugh Munro). This story is narrated by someone who was abroad at the time of a successful German invasion, and who has returned home. In a number of interesting vignettes (including being fined by a policeman for walking on the grass in Hyde Park), it describes how British society has had to accept Germanic laws and practices, and with it a gradually integration into the German Empire. The latter includes compulsory military service, something that was actually being hotly discussed in Britain when the book was written.
I first read some of these stories in the mid to late 1970s when they were included in two anthologies that were edited by Michael Moorcock. These were BEFORE ARMAGEDDON: AN ANTHOLOGY OF VICTORIAN AND EDWARDIAN IMAGINATIVE FICTION PUBLISHED BEFORE 1914 (1975) and ENGLAND INVADED (1977).

20 comments:

  1. Interesting that the publication of the 2nd of these is very close to the date of Hells War of the Worlds, another invasion novel really.

    Personally I am surprised that while aware of some of these I don't think i have actually read any of them! I must rectify this omission soon.

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    Replies
    1. OK, Kindle version of a Halycon anthology of invasion stories now down loaded. Thanks for the nudge.

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    2. Ross Mac,

      You are right about Wells' WAR OF THE WORLDS; it should be viewed and read as being part of an upsurge of interest in invasion stories. Perhaps it should be seen as an allegory as well simple science fiction story.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    3. Ross Mac,

      Does the anthology have any additional invasion stories?

      All the best,

      Bob

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    4. 9 in all mostly already mentioned. Here is the blurb:
      THE BATTLE OF DORKING AND OTHER INVASION STORIES 1871-1914 features seven invasion novels and short stories, popular in the years prior to the Great War. Generally set in England during the late Victorian or Edwardian period, invasion literature developed from the public's growing fears of foreign invasion of the British Isles by various enemies, including France, the Russian Empire, and especially imperial Germany.

      • THE BATTLE OF DORKING, George Chesney
      • THE ANGEL OF THE REVOLUTION, George Griffith
      • THE GREAT WAR IN ENGLAND IN 1897, William Le Queux
      • THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS, Erskine Childers
      • THE INVASION OF 1910, William Le Queux
      • SPIES OF THE KAISER, William Le Queux
      • WHEN WILLIAM CAME, Saki

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    5. Ross Mac,

      Cheers! Thanks for the information, and I will see if I can get copies of the stories I have not yet read.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    6. Ross Mac,

      What's a difference of two between friends?

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  2. I have read Riddle of the Sands and obviously seen the film. Both of which I thought were good. Never even heard of any of the others, so thanks for this.

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    1. Simon Jones,

      They are well worth reading, but don't forget that they were written by Victorians/Edwardians and can sometimes seem to be rather wordy.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. Thank you for this list. Interesting topic.

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    Replies
    1. Peter Ball,

      I am pleased that you found it interesting, and I hope that it encourages you to read some of them.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. Most of these are available as free downloads in various formats, e.g.:

    https://archive.org/details/invasionof1910wi00lequ

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    Replies
    1. Ncc1717,

      Thanks for the link. It will be very helpful for anyone looking for a copy of a he books.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. Thank you for your survey of “Invasion Literature”. You missed out a couple. The popularity of the genre was too much for the young P.G. Wodehouse who satirized it all in Swoop; or how Clarence saved England! where a host of invaders including the Russians, Germans, the Moroccan bandit leader Raisuli and the Mad Mullah of Somaliland descend upon Great Britain, but whose inhabitants go about their normal business unconcerned. I can also recommend Voices Prophesying War 1763-1984 by I. F. Clarke, published 1966, updated as Voices Prophesying War: Future Wars, 1793-3749 in 1992). The other invasion book is The War of the Worlds by H.G Wells. That and Erskine Childers’ “The Riddle of the Sands” are alas the only two which have stood the test of time.

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    1. David Bradley,

      I have read P G Wodehouse's SWOOP and thought that it was a wonderful satire on the invasion literature genre.

      I had not heard of either editions of VOICES PROPHESYING WAR ... but I will certainly try to find a copy.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  6. Another very interesting work is "The Red Napoleon" written by Floyd Gibbons in 1929. A Mongolian general (Kararkhan) assassinates Stalin, and begins an attempt at world conquest. He has great success at first--conquering Western Europe (including the UK), and much of Africa and Asia. Canada and the U.S. are humanity's last and best hope (what a surprise). They are aided by various governments and forces-in-exile, including (interestingly enough) Mussolini's "valiant Fascist Legion!"

    The good guys squeak out a victory by crushing the combined fleets of the world in the Carribbean--the ships for each side are set forth in detail--and by huge air battles over New England.

    It is most definitely a product of its time, especially in its almost taken-for-granted racism: Karakhan's motto is "Conquer and Breed"--horrors! They're coming for our women!!! (The book is still sympathetic to the victims of racism, however, which is weird.) There is also evident a lot of ignorance about military matters; e.g., an air battle over New England is described as involving thousands of aircraft at the same time--must have been crowded up there. Still, it is prescient in its depiction of the rise of the Third World, the ascendency of Winston Churchill, the importance of air power, etc.

    It's worth a look. A new edition was published a few years ago; I found it on Amazon.

    Best regards,

    Chris

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    Replies
    1. Chris,

      The plot of THE RED NAPOLEON sounds interesting ... if a bit far fetched. If I can find an ebook edition I will certainly buy a copy.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  7. A great blog entry Bob. I've got the two volumes edited by Moorcock in my collection. I can recommend as a modern anthology of stories 'The Tale of the Next Great War 1871- 1914' and 'Voices Prophesying War 1763- 1984' for a historical overview of the genre also gets my vote.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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    1. Pete.,

      Thanks for the recommendations. They certainly sound like books that I should read.

      All the best,

      Bob

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