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Granada Publishing Limited
8 Grafton Street
London W1X 3LA
Published by Granada Publishing 1984 Copyright \u00a9 Colin Wilson 1984
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A criminal history of mankind,
1. crime and criminals \u2014 History
I. Title 364.09 - HV6O25
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission
of the publishers.
Scanned : Mr Blue Sky
Proofed : Its Not Raining
Version : 2.0
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\u2019s Outline of History, published in 1920. Since
some of the parts were missing, I got the whole pile for a few shillings. It was, I must admit, the
pictures that attracted me - splendid full-page colour illustrations of plesiosaurs on a Mesozoic
beach; 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\u2019s text, these brought a breathless
sensation of the total sweep of world history. Even today I feel a flash of the old magical
excitement as I look at them - that peculiar delight that children feel when someone says, \u2018Once
upon a time ...\u2019
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 edition
that I discovered that strange little postscript entitled \u2018Mind at the End of Its Tether\u2019. I found it so
frustrating and incomprehensible that I wanted to tear my hair: \u2018Since  a tremendous series
of events has forced upon the intelligent observer the realisation that the human story has already
come to an end and that Homo sapiens, as he has been pleased to call himself, is in his present form
played out.\u2019 And this had not been written at the beginning of the Second World War - which might
have been understandable - but after Hitler\u2019s defeat. When I came across the earlier edition of the
little triumphs of his present state, and all this history we have told, form but the prelude to the things that man has yet to do.\u2019 And theOutline ends with a chapter predicting that mankind will find peace through the League of Nations and world government. (It was Wells who coined the phrase \u2018the war to end war\u2019.)
What had happened? Many years later, I put the question to a friend of Wells, the biblical historian Hugh Schonfield. His answer was that Wells had been absolutely certain that he had the solutions to all the problems of the human race, and that he became embittered when he realised that no one took him seriously. At the time, that seemed a plausible explanation. But since then I have come upon what I believe to be the true one. In 1936, Wells produced a curious short novel calledThe
Wells had become aware of man\u2019s 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 devoid of that feeling for evil that made Arnold Toynbee, in his Study of History, speak of \u2018the horrifying sense of sin manifest in human affairs\u2019. Wells\u2019s view of crime was cheerfully pragmatic. InThe
imposed upon the normal \u201cnatural man\u201d in order that the community may work and exist.\u2019 He
seems 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 upon
his attention. But it seems to have been the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the revelations
of Belsen and Buchenwald, which convinced him that man was bound to destroy himself from the
beginning, and that \u2018the final end is now closing in on mankind\u2019.
I am not suggesting that Wells\u2019s 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 a
marvellous story of invention and achievement, of a long battle against danger and hardship that
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