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The Outline of History

From Academic Kids

The goal of H. G. Wells in The Outline of History was stated in the subtitle: "Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind". Wells was very dissatisfied with the quality of history textbooks at the end of World War I, and so, between 1918 and 1919 produced a 1,324 page work which was published in serial softcover form in 1919, with the first hardcover edition appearing in 1920. The book met with popular acclaim and massive sales.

In 1927, Florence Deeks sued Wells for plagiarism, claiming that much of the Outline was lifted from her unpublished manuscript, "The Web Of The World's Romance", which spent over a year in the hands of Wells' North American publisher, MacMillan & Company. While her claim was met with ridicule from the bench and dismissed, many errors and omissions were shared by Deeks' and Wells' manuscripts. Carlton University professor A. B. McKillop published a well-researched argument for Deeks' case in 2001. For his part, Wells had said the Outline was the culmination of notes and historical outlines he created in the course of writing previous works, and credited the assistance of numerous historians in preparing his manuscript.

Several revised versions were produced during Wells' lifetime, and the author kept notes on factual corrections he received from educators around the world. The last revision in his lifetime was published in 1939. In 1949, an expanded version was produced by author/scholar Raymond Postgate, whose additional material initially expanded the timeline through World War II, with subsequent additions through 1969. In the later editions, Professor G. P. Wells, the author's son, updated the early chapters about prehistoric times to reflect current theories; previous editions, for instance, reflected the credence given to the Piltdown Man hoax. The final edition appeared in1971. It is currently published by Classic books, with their latest edition dated 2000 with ISBN 0742613747 .

In spite of the latter-day revisions, Postgate respected that readers wished "to hear the views of Wells, not Postgate", and endeavored to preserve the original authorial voice.

External links

  • Salon.com's review (http://www.salon.com/books/review/2002/11/07/mckillip/) of A. B. McKillop's examination of the Deeks/Wells plagiarism case, The Spinster and the Prophet.
  • A Short History Of The World (http://www.bartleby.com/86/), the full text of Wells' much shorter history, published in 1922.
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