H.G. Wells - The view from 1937 was eye-opening.
H.G. Wells – The view from 1937 was eye-opening.

– BBC Empire Service/NBC Shortwave – As I See It – talk by H.G. Wells – Dec. 21, 1937 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

We know the name H.G. Wells today as the writer of such classics as The Time Machine, War of The Worlds and The Shape Of Things To Come. But he was also a Historian, Journalist and lecturer.

The science fiction historian John Clute describes H.G. Wells as “the most important writer the genre has yet seen”, and notes his work has been central to both British and American science fiction. Science fiction author and critic Algis Budrys said Wells “remains the outstanding expositor of both the hope, and the despair, which are embodied in the technology and which are the major facts of life in our world”. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1921, 1932, 1935, and 1946. Wells so influenced real exploration of Mars that an impact crater on the planet was named after him.

In 1937 H.G. Wells gave a series of talks over the Empire Service of the BBC. The talks, from the series As I See It are interesting, and would probably spark a lot of controversy today. His insistence that English was the only language worth knowing most likely rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in 1937; it certainly would now. But in 1937 we were just getting over World War 1 – not quite yet embroiled in World War 2 – the rise of Hitler to power, the Civil War in Spain, the friction between China and Japan, and a world still in the grips of Colonialism (for the most part).

So the talk, very much part of the general consensus of opinion in 1937, is eye-opening and most likely sheds light on fundamental differences between countries and urges to go to war – a lack of understanding or an unwillingness to understand. Perhaps that’s the universal problem, even today.

But in 1937 the world was a different place and a world about to change.

For a chance to hear the actual voice of H.G. Wells, here is that talk from December 21, 1937.

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