It’s That Man Again

Leo Amery was a long-serving Conservative MP, minister, imperialist and close contemporary (though not, I think, a close friend) of Winston Churchill's - they were at Harrow together, where at their first meeting the future staunch foe of Nazi oppression pushed the smaller boy into the school pool. For some reason, he seems to pop up in many of my readings on diverse topics and here he is again, in 1904:

Sea power alone, if it is not based on great industry, and has not a great population behind it, is too weak for offence to really maintain itself in the world struggle ... both the sea and the railway are going in the future ... to be supplemented by the air as a means of locomotion, and when we come to that ... the successful powers will be those who have the greatest industrial base. It will not matter whether they are in the centre of a continent or on an island; those people who have the industrial power and the power of invention and of science will be able to defeat all others.

Comments on H. J. Mackinder, "The geographical pivot of history", Geographical Journal xxiii, no. 4 (April 1904); quoted in Paul M. Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2001 [1976]), 184 (emphasis in Kennedy).

This was quite farsighted of Amery. Not only was he quite right about the necessity for industrial power, and about the weakness of naval power (not likely to be a popular point of view during the twilight of the Pax Britannica), but he also pointed to the future importance of aviation as a form of transport a mere four months after Kitty Hawk (which in any case was barely reported in the British press). Some day I must read up on Amery.

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