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Colin Wilson
London Toronto Sydney New York
Granada Publishing Limited 8 Grafton StreetLondon W1X 3LAPublished by Granada Publishing 1984 Copyright © Colin Wilson 1984British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataWilson, ColinA criminal history of mankind,1. crime and criminals  History I. Title 364.09 - HV6O25ISBN 0-246-11636-6 Printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd, Bungay, SuffolkAll rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in aretrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permissionof the publishers.Scanned : Mr Blue Sky Proofed : Its Not Raining Version : 2.0Date : 03/12/2002
I was about twelve years old when I came upon a bundle of magazines tied with string in a second-hand bookshop - the original edition of H. G. Wells’s
Outline of History
, published in 1920. Sincesome of the parts were missing, I got the whole pile for a few shillings. It was, I must admit, thepictures that attracted me - splendid full-page colour illustrations of plesiosaurs on a Mesozoicbeach; Neanderthal men snarling in the entrance to their cave; the giant rock-hewn statues of Rameses II and his consort at Abu Simbel. Far more than Wells’s text, these brought a breathlesssensation of the total sweep of world history. Even today I feel a flash of the old magicalexcitement as I look at them - that peculiar delight that children feel when someone says, ‘Onceupon a time ...’In 1946, Penguin Books republished ten volumes of Wells to celebrate his eightieth birthday,including the condensed version of the
Outline, A Short History of the World 
. It was in this editionthat I discovered that strange little postscript entitled ‘Mind at the End of Its Tether’. I found it sofrustrating and incomprehensible that I wanted to tear my hair: ‘Since [1940] a tremendous seriesof events has forced upon the intelligent observer the realisation that the human story has alreadycome to an end and that
Homo sapiens
, as he has been pleased to call himself, is in his present formplayed out.’ And this had not been written at the beginning of the Second World War - which mighthave been understandable - but after Hitler’s defeat. When I came across the earlier edition of the
Short History
I found that, like the
, it ends on a note of uplift: ‘What man has done, thelittle triumphs of his present state, and all this history we have told, form but the prelude to thethings that man has yet to do.’ And the
ends with a chapter predicting that mankind willfind peace through the League of Nations and world government. (It was Wells who coined thephrase ‘the war to end war’.)What had happened? Many years later, I put the question to a friend of Wells, the biblical historianHugh Schonfield. His answer was that Wells had been absolutely certain that he had the solutionsto all the problems of the human race, and that he became embittered when he realised that no onetook him seriously. At the time, that seemed a plausible explanation. But since then I have comeupon what I believe to be the true one. In 1936, Wells produced a curious short novel called
TheCroquet Player 
, which is startlingly different from anything he had written before. It reveals thatWells had become aware of man’s capacity for sheer brutality and sadism. The
Outline of History
 plays down the tortures and massacres; in fact, it hardly mentions them. Wells seems totally devoidof that feeling for evil that made Arnold Toynbee, in his
Study of History
, speak of ‘the horrifyingsense of sin manifest in human affairs’. Wells’s view of crime was cheerfully pragmatic. In
TheWork, Wealth
and Happiness of Mankind 
he spoke of it as ‘artificial’, the result of ‘restrictionsimposed upon the normal “natural man” in order that the community may work and exist.’ Heseems quite unaware that the history of mankind since about 2500 B.C. is little more than a non-stop record of murder, bloodshed and violence. The brutalities of the Nazi period forced this uponhis attention. But it seems to have been the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the revelationsof Belsen and Buchenwald, which convinced him that man was bound to destroy himself from thebeginning, and that ‘the final end is now closing in on mankind’.I am not suggesting that Wells’s view of history was superficial or wrong-headed; as far as it went,it was brilliantly perceptive. As a late Victorian, he was aware of the history of mankind as amarvellous story of invention and achievement, of a long battle against danger and hardship that

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