H.G. Wells, “The Rights of Man”

I’ve never much cared for H.G. Wells’s science fiction–a combination of preachy and Wells.jpegperiod-piece utopian. As to his religious views, there is a credible argument that he was a proto-None (see his “God the Invisible King”). But while I did know that his contributions spanned nonfiction as well as fiction, I was not aware that he had written a tract on human rights. In this book, first published in 1940 and recently reissued by Penguin Random House, Wells is said to have previewed many of the ideas that made their way into the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here is the description.

H. G. Wells’s passionate and influential manifesto—never before available in the United States—was first published in England in 1940 in response to World War II. The progressive ideas Wells set out were instrumental in the creation of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the UK’s Human Rights Act. In the face of a global miscarriage of justice, The Rights of Man made a clear statement of mankind’s responsibilities to itself.

Seventy-five years later we are again witnessing a humanitarian crisis, with human rights in developed nations under threat and millions of refugees displaced. A new introduction to Wells’s work by award-winning novelist Ali Smith underlines the continuing urgency and relevance of one of the most important humanitarian texts of the twentieth century.

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