Churchill Borrowed Ideas From H.G. Wells
December 2006 - Researching a book on Winston Churchill, Dr Richard Toye, a lecturer in history at the University of Cambridge, has found that science fiction writer H.G. Wells was a significant intellectual influence, both during the statesman's early career and subsequently. Churchill and Wells met in 1902, by which time Wells had already written some of his best-known works including The War Of The Worlds and The Time Machine. The two men kept in touch until Well's death in 1946.
Prior to their first meeting, Churchill had written enthusiastically to Wells following his publication of Anticipations calling for the establishment of a scientifically-organized 'New Republic'.
Dr Toye said:
"We need to remember that there was a time when Churchill was a radical liberal who believed these things. Wells is often seen as a socialist, but he also saw himself as a liberal, and he saw Churchill as someone whose views were moving in the right direction."
Dr Toye points to connections between a landmark speech given in October 1906 in which Churchill described his vision for a supportive state as a 'Utopia' and Wells' 1905 book A Modern Utopia. Writing to Wells to praise the book two days before the speech, Churchill acknowledged "I owe you a great debt".
The writer's influence was ongoing. Churchill famously refers to 'The Gathering Storm' in a speech about the rise of Hitler's Germany and the term became the title of his first book about World War II. It also appears in The War Of The Worlds, HG Well's much earlier work describing pending Martian attacks on Britain.
Dr Toye commented:
"It's a bit like Tony Blair borrowing phrases from Star Trek or Doctor Who".
Further examples of Wells' apparent influence on Churchill highlighted by Dr Toye include:
Dr Toye commented:
"People look at politicians in the 20th century and presume their influences were big theorists and philosophers. What we forget is that Churchill and others were probably not interested in reading that stuff when they got home after a hard day in the House of Commons. They wanted to read a book that was full of ideas but was also going to be fun. H. G. Wells was perfect for that. Churchill was definitely a closet science-fiction fan. In fact, one of his criticisms of A Modern Utopia was that there was too much thought-provoking stuff and not enough action."