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Reading H. G. Wells


One book leads to another when interest is piqued. Han Suyin’s turbulent adolescence in the turn of 20th century China leads me to H.G. Wells’ A Short History of the World. It’s a period piece, written in 1922, but nonetheless very insightful.

The circumstances in which Wells wrote the book mirror to those of Han’s rearing. At the end of the First World War, men and women saw that the era of European predominance was coming to an end. There was socialism at home in England, a threat to the old order; there was Bolshevism abroad. Monarchy in China was overthrown and replaced by war states. America, aggressively democratic, dominated the world’s economy, though not as firmly as in the later 1940s. There were colonial revolts, of which no one could foresee the outcome and a “Third-World” country, Japan, had shown Europe how she might be defeated.

For a book that encompasses world history this one is compact. Wells focuses on political organization, paying little or no attention on art and literature. But Wells has a fizzle and pop in his writing and writes respectfully of all races.


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