H.G. Wells and the New Liberalism
Twentieth Century British History
Oxford University Press
This article offers a new interpretation of H.G. Wells's political thought in the Edwardian period and beyond. Scholars have emphasised his socialism at the expense of his commitment to liberalism, and have misread his novel The New Machiavelli as an anti-Liberal tract. Wells spent much effort in the pre-1914 period in the quest for a ‘new Liberalism’, and did not believe that socialists should compete directly with the Liberal Party for votes. It was this latter conviction that lay behind his much misunderstood dispute with the Fabian Society. His political support for Churchill was one sign of his belief in the compatibility of liberalism and socialism, in which he was far from unique at the time. He also engaged, somewhat idiosyncratically, with the ‘servile state’ concept of Hilaire Belloc. Although he did not articulate his Liberal identity with complete consistency, he did so with increasing intensity as the First World War approached. This helps explain why key New Liberal politicians including Churchill, Lloyd George and Masterman responded to his ideas sympathetically. The extent of engagement between Wells and the ‘New Liberalism’ was such that he deserves to be considered alongside Green, Ritchie, Hobson and Hobhouse as one of its prophets.
© The Author .This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Twentieth Century British History following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version 2008, vol. 19, issue 2, pp. 156-185 is available online at: http://tcbh.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/2/156.full.pdf+html.
Vol. 19, Issue 2, pp. 156-185