Academic Theses related to Invasion Literature

The following theses relate to Invasion / Future-War Literature of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

All abstracts, except where explicitly noted, are from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (available to academic researchers) where the original full-text is also available.
Gannon, Charles Edward. 1998. Speculative fiction: Literature of political transformation.

This project investigates how political agendas of modern technophilic superpowers are influenced by speculative fiction. This phenomenon is explored primarily within the domain of post-World War II American literature and policy. In order to ensure that the results are not seen solely as artifacts particular to one nation and one epoch, a detailed, comparative analysis of Edwardian British speculative fiction is also conducted.

The inquiry begins by focusing on those narratives most suffused with political significance: texts that portray “future warfare” and its technologies. This limiting criterion also reflects one of the dissertation’s primary theses: the relative increase in the political influence of “future war” fictions has paralleled the rise of superpower states and their technophilic ideologies. Records show that there was a profusion of “future war” fiction in late Victorian England, paralleling the British Empire’s struggle to convert itself into the first modern superpower. These imaginative Victorian texts were the direct discursive forebears of American “hard” science fiction, a genre which has been increasingly dominated by speculations about advanced military technology and has become an institutionalized part of the nation’s research-and-design resource base. By tracing the discursive threads that bind together government, media, and storytellers in both Britain and America, this dissertation proposes to demonstrate the influence of speculative texts upon the perceptions and actions that ultimately transform a society’s political agendas and structures.

This investigation of “future war” narratives offers strong evidence, and confirms the precedent, for the further assertion that less technocentric works of speculative fiction may have less obvious, but more profound, influence upon political change. Three canonized examples are analyzed: Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. By virtue of these texts’ more generalized epistemological inquiry, and their status as cultural monuments, it is posited that their influence is more lasting than that of technocentric narratives.

Gannon’s 2005 book Rumors of War and Infernal Machines: Technomilitary Agenda-setting in American and English Speculative Fiction builds upon the thesis.

Hitchner, Thomas Andrew. 2010. Espionage literature and the training of the modern British hero. Order No. 3422347, University of California, Irvine.

British spy fiction arose at the end of the nineteenth century, and proliferated between the end of the Boer War in 1902 and the beginning of World War I in 1914. My dissertation, “Espionage Literature and the Training of the British Hero,” uses both popular and canonical works involving espionage, as well as contemporary nonfiction and historical sources, to argue that the new genre’s rise coincided with a changing perception of the amateur hero in British literature, society, and politics. While Victorian popular literature was dominated by the heroic type of an amateur patriot whose skills and values derive from a sporting background, at the end of the nineteenth century a loss of British self-confidence gave rise to doubt in the efficacy of the British amateur hero. My dissertation argues that spies and spy-hunters, who are poised between the categories of amateur and professional, emerged in the literature of this period to offer a modern alternative to the traditional amateur hero. The new, pragmatic heroes of pre-war counterintelligence literature, more concerned with concrete results than with the pleasures of adventure or upper-class standards of honor, represented an evolving perspective on Britain’s Empire and rivals, a perspective that anticipated the reassessment and reshaping of sporting British heroism that followed World War I. In my dissertation I contrast the paranoid works of counterspy fiction by authors such as William Le Queux and E. Phillips Oppenheim with the more sportsmanlike spy fiction of Erskine Childers and Rudyard Kipling, as well as authors such as John Buchan who could write in both modes. I also study the figure of the spy in crime fiction, examining undercover detectives in Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday and Conrad’s The Secret Agent. Finally, I show the ways in which spy fiction in general was intended to train readers themselves as spy and counterspy heroes and thus create a new model of British heroism.


Brittenham, Rebecca L. 1994. “England’s danger”: Edwardian configurations of nation and national identity. Order No. 9431071, Rutgers The State University of New Jersey – New Brunswick.

This study explores Edwardian debates over the meaning of nation and national identity as they emerge in the work of H. G. Wells, May Sinclair, and in a series of lesser known pre-war invasion novels, editorials, and advertisements. I argue that the visions offered by these texts, of an England that is externally besieged and internally fractured, both reflect and generate a climate of public anxiety about Britain’s imperial refashioning and its position within the international competition for economic and territorial power.

The fears of invasion writers about the mental and physical deterioration of the English “species” and the evolutionary decline of the British empire prompted their attempts both to prevent unwelcome change and to bring about widespread reform. H. G. Wells and May Sinclair sought to expedite changes in the social fabric, particularly those created by the rise of democracy and the woman’s suffrage campaign, in part by contesting prevailing representations of the nation-state and the ideal citizen. Each of these writers contributed their own challenging or fortifying visions of imperial security, cultural superiority, racial character, gendered attributes, and class-based boundaries in the attempt to give “national identity” a more solid outline.

Matin, A. M. (1997). Securing britain: Figures of invasion in late victorian and edwardian fiction (Order No. 9734360). Colombia University

My project examines the pre-World War One British invasion narrative, a little-studied popular genre that depicts French, Russian, and German attacks on England and on the territories of the British Empire. I argue that the motifs and concerns of this sub-canonical Tory-Conservative genre are most complexly realized in canonical texts. My primary examples are works by Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, and H. G. Wells. Although these three writers registered a set of common concerns over dangers posed to England, their perspectives differed: Kipling, who was born in India, was a proponent of British military prowess and of the empire; Wells, a native Englishman and a socialist, opposed British imperialism; Conrad, an emigre from Russian-occupied Poland, wrote of an endangered England from the perspective of a people for whom invasion and subjugation were lived experiences.

In chapter one, I provide an historical overview and a typology of the invasion narrative. In chapter two, I discuss Kipling’s Kim (1901), whose political theme is potential Russian “theft” of British territory in northwest India, and Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906), which represents the Sussex coast as a choice site for landings of hostile forces. In chapter three, I argue that Conrad deployed the motifs of invasion literature in The Secret Agent (1907) in order to condescend to the new mass reading public and to play out, in a displaced way, his own nationalistic preoccupations (Poland had been an occupied territory since the eighteenth century). In chapter four, I argue that The War of the Worlds (1898) was inspired by a series of invasion narratives. I further contend that Wells’ anxieties over encroachments on English sovereignty are displayed in his preference for indigenous socialism (Owenism) over continental socialism (Marxism) and in his resistance to Henry James’ attempts to “occupy” the English novel with French methods and standards of judgment. My discussion focuses on Tono-Bungay (1909), which militaristically figures a variety of Edwardian social and political phenomena, including the new plutocracy’s supplanting of the landed gentry and the rise of consumer society.

Wisnicki, Adrian Stanislaw Feliks. 2003. Towards conspiracy theory: Revolution, terrorism and paranoia from victorian fiction to the modern novel. Order No. 3083720, City University of New York.

My dissertation examines the literary development of “conspiracy” into the modern phenomenon of “conspiracy theory,” and I argue that the latter is an offshoot of the former (so that in contemporary literature we find both conspiracy and conspiracy theory narratives). Although “conspiracy” can be defined in a number of ways, in using the term “conspiracy” I mean the ontologically-confirmed relationship between two or more people secretly united to commit an unlawful act. Conversely, a “conspiracy theory” narrative only “theorizes” that a conspiracy exists. For various reasons, final confirmation remains elusive and, in general, conspiracy theory narratives tend to emphasize the indeterminacy of their claims and the highly suspicious or clinically paranoid nature of their central conspiracy theorist.

How did literary conspiracy narratives develop into conspiracy theory? What historical events significantly contributed to this development? What is the role of paranoia–both in the clinical and modern “commodified” sense–in this development? And, what is the aesthetic value of conspiracy narratives in general–i.e., why should we as reflective readers bother to read them in the first place?

Taking the mid- to late-Victorian novel as my case study, these are the questions that my dissertations confronts. I situate my chosen Victorian conspiracy novels (especially The Moonstone, Great Expectations, The Woman in White, Villette and The Secret Agent ) in relation to one another, and among a number of broad social, historical and political developments such as the European revolutions of 1848, urbanization, the rise of the police and detective forces, the growth of the press, the “disappearance of God,” Fenian terrorism, and the birth of modern espionage. I also devote considerable space to twentieth-century conspiracy theory narratives, including those of Proust, Kafka, Foucault, Pynchon and DeLillo.

The critical approaches I use are four: historical, structuralist, psychiatric and “aesthetic.” By the last term, however, I do not mean the Kantian aesthetic, that “universal” beauty that stands apart from any historical context. Rather, using the work of Eve Sedgwick on affect theory and Martha Nussbaum on “political objectivity” (objectivity based on democratic consensus), I develop a new conception of the aesthetic, one that inverts the “hermeneutics of suspicion” by stressing how a given text can advocate the need to respect human rights and liberty.


Tempera, Mariangela. 1984. Popular literature as propaganda in the “future war” tale (1871-1915) (England, France, Germany). Order No. 8501458, Indiana University.

No sooner had the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 come to its conclusion than the European powers began to be concerned with the shape of wars to come. The need for an increase in military expenditure was expressed both by pamphleteers who could translate technical details into everyday language and by popular fiction writers who could make their arguments even more palatable to the common reader by encasing them in fictional plots.

Between 1871 and 1915, English, French and German writers produced an enormous body of works that are set in the near future and illustrate a war episode which involves the author’s country. The often disastrous outcome of the conflict highlights the shortcomings of a country that failed, at the right time, to give top priority to military training and budget. These “Future War” tales were extremely popular, and were often adapted and translated, or even surreptitiously altered, from country to country. Although totally forgotten today, they can provide us with valuable insights into the use of fiction to manipulate public opinion.

It is the purpose of this study to identify and compare strategies of war propaganda in the “Future War” tales of England, France and Germany. In-depth analysis of representative works from each nation reveals how the basic scenario is shaped to fit the expectations of different national audiences. At the same time, it indicates the presence in all three countries of a gap between the values of a caste of professional warriors and those of the middle-class electorate for whom the tales were meant.


Stewart, Michael D. 2012. “Stranger than fiction”: Anglo-american-german relations and rivalries through invasion literature: 1890-1914. Order No. 1522926, Texas Woman’s University.

The speculative literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are usually considered escapist fiction and not germane to historical study. This paper proposes that by studying the sub-genre of literature called “Invasion Literature.” This paper postulates that one can understand the mindset of a nation’s people during the time period the story is written in. Such stories not only influenced public mood but in turn were influenced by this mood, as their popularity during this time period reveals. This paper considers the Invasion Literature of three nations; the United States, Great Britain, and Germany. All three nations were under increasing pressure to either maintain their world power (in the case of Great Britain) or in the case of the United States and Germany, to increase their national power. This competition would result first in a naval arms race and eventually the First World War.


McCrae, Meighan Sarah C. 2008. Strategy and science fiction: Britain and the invasion scares, 1905–1909. Order No. MR38122, University of Calgary (Canada)

This thesis examines the relationship between journalism, ‘future war’ literature, strategic studies and government defence policy in Britain from 1905 to 1909. It is an analysis of the discourse created by a small group of men, concerned with British national efficiency caused by the challenges Germany posed to Britain’s political and economic position in the world. It assesses the similarities in the visions promulgated by strategic publicists and fiction writers and their attempts to raise concerns over national defence with the objective of affecting government policy. It illuminates the blurred line between fact and fiction, through the case studies of The Times military journalist, Charles à Court Repington, and ‘future war’ writer, William Le Queux by exploring how and why these two men both used a vision of invasion to advocate a larger army.

Theses not obtained via ProQuest:

van Dieren, Suzan. 2008.  From ‘Cousin German’ to ‘Unmensch’ The English image of Germany between 1830 and 1914

This thesis will study the English national image of the Germans and Germany from 1830 to 1914. The English conception of German national character is captured in this image. The first chapter will describe the English image of the Germans between 1830 and 1870. The second chapter will cover the period between 1870 and 1914. The year 1870 is -politically speaking- an important year in the relation between England and Germany with the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 and the German unification of 1871 (as will be explained further in chapter 2); therefore, the line of demarcation between these two periods is placed in 1870. The year 1830 is taken as a starting point because Germany was not really present in English minds before this period.2 Germany existed at the border of English perception but did not really occupy a place in the spotlights. Around 1830 this changes and England’s interest in Germany increases a lot, thanks to the works of Samuel Coleridge, George Eliot and Thomas Carlyle. This thesis stops in 1914 with the outbreak of the First World War, because the English image of the Germans during the war is -as one might expect- downright negative and hateful, caused by wartime propaganda and hate of the enemy. In the third and final chapter the images of the two periods will be compared and evaluated and a conclusion will be derived from this comparison.

Stearn, Roger Thomas 1987. War images and image makers in the Victorian era: Aspects of the British visual and written portrayal of war and defence.1866-1906. Kings College,  University of London

The thesis considers aspects of British perceptions, images and attitudes towards war and defence, and certain key persons who presented them to the public, approximately from1866 to 1906.It is concerned primarily with leading civilian artists and writers on war and defence, and with the message and images presented by the press, books and pictures, on land warfare more than naval warfare. It considers first the visual images of war in the press and painting, and the press special war artists and the studio battle-painters. It then considers war correspondents and the work and message of two leading correspondents, Archibald Forbes and George Warrington Steevens. It then considers aspects of the war-portrayal and message of the fiction of future war.Conclusions drawn include the essential unity of the presented image of war and defence, such that the varied media and communicators mutually reinforced their message. The image was shaped by predetermined selectivity by an ideological cluster of patriotism, imperialism, social darwinism, bellicism and martial values. These so dominated perceptions that the presentations of those with and without battle experience hardly differed. The presentations were purposive and inspirational, warning and urging material and moral pre-paration. War was presented positively, as heroism and adventure, its horrors minimised and contained. Military and civilians interacted in this presentation, and the communicators were also influenced by factors including continental influences, party politics, journalistic imperatives, artistic and literary convention, and individual careerism. Though pacifists and others dissented from it, the influence of this dominant image of war and defence was pervasive, shaping the assumptions of the pre-1914 nation.

Macenczak, Ansley 2010.  German enemy aliens and the decline of British liberalism in World War 1. Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College 

After the start of World War I in 1914, the British government began internment of enemy alien men, disrupting the large German population settled in the country. This move seemed to be in complete contrast in comparison to the lax immigration laws during the long nineteenth century, when Great Britain had one of the most liberal immigration laws of any country in Europe. The British public was proud of this tradition and Britain’s image as an open haven for refugees and individuals seeking a better life. Foreigners were attracted to Britain by its liberal traditions, most clearly exemplified by the Liberal Party’s espousal of limited government intervention and the protection of civil liberties.
This thesis will examine the decades of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the Liberal Party experienced a crisis of ideals and a split and Britain experienced an economic depression which coincided with an increase in immigration. During these decades, foreigners became a convenient “other” for Britons to blame for economic problems, and pressure from the angry public forced governments to pass new legislation which contradicted previous open-door policies. The Aliens Act of 1905, one of the first pieces of legislation which provided officials with more power to turn away undesirable aliens and limit their movement around the country, was followed by the Defence of the Realm Act and the Aliens Restriction Act, which H.H. Asquith’s Liberal government passed immediately following the declaration of war on Germany in 1914.
For the duration of the war Germans in Britain faced blatant discrimination and infringement upon their civil liberties, as dictated by the new wartime legislation. Most men were interned in large camps located on the Isle of Man, while women faced repatriation at the discretion of the government. At the conclusion of World War I, David Lloyd George’s coalition government decided to extend the new restrictions regarding immigration legislation, conveying how British liberal traditions were forever changed.

Moon, Howard Roy 1968. The invasion of the United Kingdom: public controversy and official planning 1888-1918. Kings College, University of London

To invade and conquer Great Britain by conveying the large armies of the Continent to her shores was a strategic problem which absorbed the most eminent military authorities of pre-1914 Europe. Tirpitz, Schlieffen, Foch, Roberts, Repington, Fisher, and the British, French, and German General Staffs devoted years of study to the complex issues involved in this enigmatic enterprise. In Britain, the question inspired the birth of the Blue Water School of naval strategy and for a generation thereafter remained the chief contention in a bitter struggle for predominance between the two services. Invasion was the first defence problem to be considered by the Committee of Imperial Defence and remained its major pre-occupation, inspiring altogether five exhaustive reviews between 1902 and1914. Interest in invasion was not, however, confined to the military establishment. The German staff studies were activated by the Kaiser himself. In Britain, Cabinet ministers such as Balfour and Churchill, and civilian strategists such as Corbett, attacked the mysteries of invasion with an intellectual sophistication which eclipsed the work of serving professionals.

 Especially in Britain, a possible invasion was a defence question which preoccupied all classes of society. Journals and newspapers analyzed its complexities for the patriotic edification of a middle class readership, while unscrupulous journalists and publicists exploited the public’s anxiety over overseas attack for less noble motives. The common man attested to his interest in the issue by purchasing sensational prophesies of future invasion by the million, and invasion scares in1888, 1900, 1909, and 1914 revealed a deep national concern that would diminish only during the war itself. The test of war provided the final proof that invasion was a remote contingency. By1918, a long strategic era was drawing to a close as airpower displaced seapower as Britain’s first line of defence. &

Ross, Catriona (2008) Unsettled imaginings: Australian novels of Asian invasion. Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

This thesis examines novels that depict an imaginary invasion of Australia by an Asian country. It argues that novels of Asian invasion constitute a distinct body of formulaic literature – a subgenre – within the field of Australian popular fiction. This study undertakes a formative mapping of the subgenre of Asian invasion novels in three ways. It assembles the corpus of texts and provides an annotated bibliography. It delineates the generic form and content of the novels and monitors the resilience and evolution of the subgenre through changing historical and cultural contexts. It considers the ideological implications of the Asian invasion narrative through readings of race, nation and gender. The first novels of Asian invasion, which established the conventions of the subgenre, were produced during the period of intense nation building immediately before and after the federation of Australia in 1901. The explicit ideological project of these novels was to awaken white Australia to the threat Asia posed to its fledgling nationhood. This initial anxious literary production activated a detailed set of discourses centring on Australian vulnerability and Asian menace that endure to the present day. Generic invasion novels are alarmist, didactic texts that call for a massive strengthening of national defence by illustrating the ease with which Australia could be invaded under the present circumstances. In order to fulfil this pedagogic agenda the texts are often meticulously realist, but are at the same time complete fantasy, for they document not an actual but an imaginary war. This study contends that invasion novels bring together science fiction narrative structures, adventurous plots and realist literary strategies to construct a vehicle for the political ideology of Asian threat. The thesis charts the development of the subgenre from its inception in 1888 to the present time and locates thirty novels in all. A survey of the subgenre as a whole complements the detailed analysis of specific novels. It argues that these novels are primarily the same dystopian tale of the loss of white Australia told time and time again. On a subtextual level, Australia’s very fixation with the fiction of Asian invasion generates a cultural significance of its own. This study explores how the compulsive retelling of the generic prophesy of Asian invasion implicitly suggests specifically white cultural anxieties stemming from Australia’s status as a relatively new settler society, itself born of invasion.


Bulfin, Ailise (2014) ‘“To Arms!”: Colonial Authors and the Fiction of Invasion 1890-1914.’  PhD thesis. University of Dublin, Trinity College.

Broadly speaking my thesis investigates the relationship between imperialism and popular culture in the fin-de-siècle period. Its specific focus is the intersection between what I term ‘invasion anxiety’ – a paranoid inversion of the optimistic discourse of jingoism – and popular literature by colonial authors. Based on the works of key historians, my thesis characterises fin-de-siècle British society as existing in a state of extreme paranoia concerning the threat of foreign invasion, though ostensibly at its imperial zenith. It ascribes a major reason for this paranoia to a seldom-voiced, but mounting concern that ceaseless imperial expansion was likely to provoke some kind of retributive invasion of Britain, whether by unruly colonial subjects or rival colonial powers. It argues that a key outlet for the expression of this fear was popular culture, and identifies immigrant colonial authors living and writing in the imperial metropolis as a group ideally positioned to articulate it.
Exemplary of this group are the then-popular, now-neglected Caribbean Anglo-Irishman M. P. Shiel and the Anglo-Australian Guy Boothby, both hybrid products of the colonial margins who shared a heightened sense of the immediacy of colonial issues. Their popular novels include admonitory texts of retributive colonial invasion resulting in mass metropolitan death, and both predicate this fiction upon contemporary colonial events which had particular resonance for them. Both wrote across the spectrum of popular genres emerging in the fin de siècle, including crime, horror and science fiction, and my research aims to reveal invasion anxiety and colonial concerns as influential in the development of these genres.

[Abstract from ]