H.G. Wells's World Reborn: The Outline of History and Its Companions

H.G. Wells's World Reborn: The Outline of History and Its Companions

H.G. Wells's World Reborn: The Outline of History and Its Companions

H.G. Wells's World Reborn: The Outline of History and Its Companions


"In 1919, the novelist H. G. Wells published the first edition of The Outline of History, a work destined to be one of the enduring cultural documents of the twentieth century. Aimed at the general reader, the 500,000-word effort was intended by Wells to provide the necessary background so that educated citizens (from any part of the globe) could start to discard their nationalistic and theological blinders and start to see the world as it really was. To Wells's way of thinking, the only way to prevent disasters like World War I, which had just ended, was to drop outmoded prejudices altogether and create a one-world government. The work was an immense success, selling over two million copies in various editions and translations in its first ten years. It was especially popular in the United States, staying in print until the 1970s. In the first extended study of these works, Ross analyzes them as products of a progressive mindset convinced that the Enlightenment tradition of science and reason was the perfect antidote to the current disastrous situation. In addition to asking how far Wells's rhetoric and organization allow his reformist aims to be realized in the Outline, Ross also interrogates all three works on a number of critical topics to see how well Wells's views hold up against contemporary attitudes." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Wells may indeed have considered himself a popularizer, a writer for the common man, and one who had a genuine interest in general education. But The Outline of History was not born of a writer's need to please a particular audience or to find a new successful, entertaining, or informative project. Instead, it began with what can be described without hyperbole as a desire to save the world.

Wells has left a number of accounts of how he came to write The Outline of History and even more explanations of his aims. During World War I, Wells became an ardent supporter of the concept of a league of nations. His notion of a league was far more extreme than Woodrow Wilson's subsequent proposal. in fact, as Wells admitted in a book called In the Fourth Year (1918), his proposed league would [practically control the army, navy, air forces, and armament industry of every nation in the world,] and the league [must do no less than supersede Empire.] Supporting world government was nothing new to Wells—what was new was his recent optimism that the time was ripe for such an undertaking. It should not be surprising that Wilson's far more tepid idea of a league was a great disappointment to him. But working with like-minded individuals on the usual committees to obtain a league was no less demoralizing.

During the various discussions, committee meetings and conferences that
occurred in the course of the consolidation of the earlier League of Nations or
ganizations into the League of Nations Union, I had been very much impressed
by the perpetually recurring mental divergences due to the fact that everyone
seemed to have read a different piece of history or no history at all, and that
consequently our ideas of the methods and possibilities of human association
varied in the wildest manner.

This statement of wild divergences in the backgrounds or historical mindsets of his confreres would suggest that he was dealing with a genuinely . . .

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