“The Land Ironclads,” H. G. Wells, 1903

The Land Ironclads,” H.G. Wells, 1903 – A war correspondent is there when the first “land ironclads” of a technologically-superior force defeat old-fashioned “country” warriors.

Comments: Seen through eyes of reporter. Anticipates the invention of tanks. Themes include inevitability and superiority of technological “progress,” along with its price. Clear distinction between two types of soldiers and their bodies (country: robust, healthy; city: slender, slight), one tech-encased, impersonal, another old-fashioned, individualized, valiant, perhaps foolish–and doomed to be “run over” by the terrifying new machine.

Author: Wikipedia: “Herbert George ‘H.G.’ Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was an English author.He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games. Together with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback, Wells has been referred to as ‘The Father of Science Fiction’.”

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About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1926 and earlier, favorites, international, masculinity, mechanization, natural/artificial, progress/obsolescence, the body, violence, war/soldiers. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “The Land Ironclads,” H. G. Wells, 1903

  1. Though Wells makes the point that the new, mechanized warfare would eliminate the old miltiary advantage which he saw as being possessed by rural populations over urban ones — namely, that rural people were more used to living in and moving over the field than were urban people. This would have been important to Wells, in part because he probably considered urban people more “civilized,” and in part because as a Socialist he would have seen the urban proletariat as more progressive than rural peasantry.

    The story is interesting from a military-technological point of view because Wells manages to get pretty much every detail of his “land ironclads” wrong (he sees them as being the size of small naval warships, running on numerous wheels rather than tracks, and deriving their firepower from massed rifles behind their firing slits) yet he gets their battlefield implications (breaking trench stalemates and providing more industrialized powers a decisive advantage) dead right. This is a good example of how general prediction is often more important than specific prediction in science fiction.

    The story had a huge impact on the real world. It is almost certain that Winston Churchill was familiar with the tale and that it was one of the things which influenced him to push for the development of the real “landships” in 1914-16. This is of course the technology which we now know better as the Armored Fighting Vehicle, or “tank.”

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