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‘The future of our delicate network of empire’: The Riddle of the Sands and the Birth of the British Spy Thriller

Merrick, Burrow (2016) ‘The future of our delicate network of empire’: The Riddle of the Sands and the Birth of the British Spy Thriller. In: New Directions in Popular Fiction: Genre, Distribution, Reproduction. Merrick Burrow . Palgrave, London, pp. 111-133. ISBN 978-1-137-52346-4

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Abstract

When The Riddle of the Sands was published in 1903 it was quick to attract attention. Its plot, concerning a German conspiracy to invade Britain, has been credited by cultural historians with contributing significantly to a public ‘invasion mania’ in the years leading up to the First World War, which in turn fed the popular appetite for more spy thrillers, breathing life into the fledgling genre. Such assessments of the novel’s influence have tended to focus upon the authenticity of the invasion plot, the history of its subsequent reception and Childers’ presumed sympathy with the militarist opinions of Arthur H. Davies, one of the central protagonists. Connected to this is a common view of The Riddle of the Sands as belonging to a right-wing movement that sought to bolster British imperialism through calls for naval rearmament and the establishment of a secret service. The Riddle of the Sands certainly creates a space for the articulation of such arguments, which Davies does indeed deliver in declamatory fashion. But to identify the overall political sensibility of the novel with such demagoguery is only sustainable if one disregards the ways in which it is mediated by the literary form and tone of narration.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
D History General and Old World > DD Germany
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Merrick Burrow
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2017 12:01
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2017 21:45
URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/31599

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