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Nov 1, 1974

Nock, “The Myth of a Guilty Nation”

On Albert Jay Nock and his supposed ‘German sympathies’ during the First World War.

The Myth of a Guilty Nation was first published in 1922. It is a restatement in the polished prose of Albert Jay Nock of the historical findings of the two earliest and bravest English revisionist historians. E.D. Morel and Francis Neilson. relative to the background of the First World War, and it is intended for a non-academic literary audience. In view of the tremulous and excessively apologetic introduction, one wonders why the current publishers even bothered to bring it out at all. Nevertheless, one must bow in thanks in their direction for making it available once more for The first time in half a century. Though originally subject to the disdainful denigration of The patrician historical establishment—in a singular display of overkill, since it was not even addressed to them—it might be noted that its reputation was gradually augmented. It eventually drew an appreciative accolade from no less than Harry Elmer Barnes (along with Neilson’s How Diplomats Make War) in Barnes’ celebrated The Genesis of the World War (1929).

Nock, smeared as a German apologist in what H.L. Mencken considered the least educable sector of the American public, academe, was palpably engaged in something of somewhat greater scope: a demonstration to a literate readership of non-specialists of the utter imbecility of the Versailles Treaty and its fundament, the thesis of Germany’s unique war guilt, and their ominous portent for the future of Europe. It took several more years of trying to maintain the new status quo this iniquitous construct predicated (the veteran American diploma! William D. Bullitt was to characterize the Versailles Treaty as “the stupidest document ever penned by the hand of man”) before the world got Adolf Hitler as a consequence.

Nock’s is a civilized and succinct disquisition on the facts exposed by Morel and Neilson concerning the careful preparation for war on the part of those powers that ultimately clashed with the Germans, preparation made while feigning innocent unreadiness. At a time when almost the entire U.S.A. clung to the wartime propaganda of sole German responsibility for the war. Nock was almost alone (with the exception of John Kenneth Turner) in revealing quite the reverse. Those who admire the Nockian literary genius or those who want to start their study of revisionism at the beginning will welcome the republication of this book. Reviewed by James J. Martin / History (114 pages) / LR Price $12