Founding the World State: H. G. Wells on Empire and the English-Speaking Peoples

19 Jul 2018

Herbert George Wells was one of the leading public intellectuals of the first half of the twentieth century. Most famous today as a founder of modern science fiction, he was once known throughout the world as a visionary social and political thinker. Questions of global order occupied a central place in his work. From the opening decade of the century until the close of the Second World War, he campaigned tirelessly for the creation of a world state, which would act as a guarantor of universal peace and justice. Yet, scholarship on Wells pays insufficient attention to the complex and conflicted nature of Wells's early views about how to build a world state. In particular, it neglects the tensions between his advocacy of a New Republic, formed by the unification of the English-speaking peoples, and his support for liberal imperialism. I analyze the development of this theme in Wells's political thinking during the years before WWI, a formative period in his intellectual life. I demonstrate how his conceptions of race, empire, and Anglo-American union shifted over time, show how his political arguments connected to his underlying views about social explanation and language, and highlight how his interpretation of the United States profoundly influenced his ideas about world order.