H.G. Wells and South Africa

H.G. Wells’s exploration of the idea of alien invasion and world government was influenced by his analysis of colonial South Africa. What Wells termed ‘the chastening experience of the Boer War’ (1914: 23) coupled with the inevitable ‘black revolt in South Africa’ (1933a: 156) prefigured the coming global conflict.

Wells’s brother, Fred, served in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899–1902) and subsequently opened Wells’s Drapery Store in Johannesburg. His daughter and her husband also visited South Africa, Anna Jane lecturing in economic history at the University of the Witwatersrand. Criticising the bullying imperialism of Kipling, Wells compared the machinations that produced the Boer War with the mismanagement of Ireland, the ‘two open sores of irreconcilable wrong’ (1920: 424; see 467; xiv). His interest in South Africa included both Boer Wars (see Wells 1894a: 22) and informed his understanding of spirit of British imperialism

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