H.G. Wells on Salvaging Civilisation

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[156] Only greater unity can come to the rescue of European civilisation and transform Europe. According to Wells, this unity would not be modelled on the imperfect ideal of the League of Nations. Rather, Europe's nationalisms can only be superseded by a higher ideal of a world state for the whole mankind. The relationship between this world state and the League of Nations is, according to Wells, similar to that between God and a heavenly committee comprising Wotan, Baal, Jupiter, Ammon, Mumbo, Suvabo and sundry national and tribal idols. The diverse, petty interests can only be replaced by a single great idea with benefits the whole world.


[157] …educational associations and the press can transform public opinion. Wells expects marvellous results from the reformation of the educational system.


Wells does not expect the development of a new spirit, the spirit of humanity, to follow upon changes in the techniques of teaching. In the second half of the century the world was in an equally miserable condition as it is today. Back then, the Czech philosopher [John Amos] Comenius wanted to unite the world's nations into a unified state, create a universal language and provide all of the world's citizens with one copy of the book of 'Essential knowledge'. We need just such a book, a compendium of knowledge and skills, to guide humanity towards spiritual communion. The Bible has lost its power over human souls, but nothing has replaced it. Modern society is not united by any form of spiritual cement - and it is spiritual cement that is required today. This would, according to Wells, be the new Bible of civilisation.

[…] The modern history of global progress would replace the cosmogony of the Bible; it would, following the example of the Bible, portray the universal history of mankind. Biblical law would be replaced by a book of the science of rational life, which would be devoted principally to the importance of hygiene, as well as health care and sexuality, followed by questions of property and labour. The psalms, the Song of the Songs, Jesus and the Book of the Prophets would have the same value as a selected anthology of world literature. And, just as in the prophesies of the Old and the New Testaments, the Book of Prophets ends with the appearance of St John, the Book of the future would end with the fall of civilisation, in which leading statesmen and politicians would divulge their views of the future. The modern [158] Bible would be edited by a committee of distinguished experts, and would be continually revised in line with the development of science.


And this why this beautiful book[1] is, in truth, more akin to the utopianism of the Gospels than to genuine social science.


  1. H. G. Wells, The Salvaging of Civilization: The Probable Future of Mankind, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1921.

Text Informations

Original Publication: “H.G. Wells, a civilizáció megmentéséről”, Bécsi Magyar Újság, 21 October 1923
KPA: 01/51, 53 (1 p. ; original)
Recent Publication in English: in POLANYI 2016, p. 155-158; translated by Adam Fabry.
Other Languages:

Lge Name
FR « H.G. Wells sur le sauvetage de la civilisation »