Trish finding Holbeach’s man of peace in Oslo

The Blue Plaque in Holbeach.
The Blue Plaque in Holbeach.

The darkened room was lit by 1,000 fibre-optic lights shimmering on the top of thin rods that gently waved like long grass: an LED garden where colours changed and pulses of deep sounds filled the air, writes Trish Burgess.

We had entered The Nobel Field, a glass room in the old Victorian railway station, now home to the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo. Among the rods of light, 100 small LCD screens were positioned, each one springing to life with sound and colour as we approached. The faces of winners such as the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Kofi Annan were shown, with explanations.

We looked at the faces but one held my attention; and the name Norman Angell. I couldn’t work out why the name sounded familiar until my husband reminded me that I must have walked past the Blue Plaque dedicated to the man hundreds of times.

Of course, Sir Norman Angell was born in Holbeach and the plaque can be seen on the wall of the Mansion House Hotel in the High Street.

I have lived in Holbeach for nearly 20 years and knew nothing about the man behind the plaque. A bit of google searching revealed he was born Ralph Norman Angell Lane in Holbeach in 1872, one of six children, to Thomas Angell Lane and Mary (Brittain) Lane: he later dropped the ‘Lane’.

He attended several schools in England before studying in Europe. It was while he was at the University of Geneva that he took the decision, at the tender age of 17, to emigrate to the west coast of America. There he took several jobs from cowboy, vine planter to prospector before becoming a reporter. He returned to England for family reasons in 1898 then became a journalist for several newspapers while based in Paris.

A Labour MP for a couple of years from 1929, he was knighted for public service in 1931 and presented with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933.

But what did he do to deserve such an honour? He wrote a book, ‘The Grand Illusion’, in 1910, arguing that integration of the European economies had grown to such a degree that war was pointless. His theory, ‘angellism’, stated that military and political power gave a nation no commercial advantage: one nation could not benefit by subjugating another.

He was an executive on the World Committee against War and the League of Nations Union and campaigned against the aggressive policies of Germany, Italy and Japan during the 1930s. He published another 41 books, constantly seeking a formula to enable the world to achieve international peace. He died, aged 94, in Croydon, Surrey

I am a little ashamed that it has taken a trip to Norway to discover more about one of the world’s most influential political thinkers of his time... who used to live just up the road.

You can follow Trish on Twitter @mumsgoneto and read her blog at www.mumsgoneto.blogspot.com