Are we already in the opening phase of another war of the world – another «great disillusionment» to compare with the horrendous global conflict of the 20th century? If so, we re2_kommentar perplexingly calm. Financial indicators of volatility and confidence were only momentarily affected by the 7/7 bombings. Thursday’s damp squibs barely registered. The mood I encountered on returning to London from abroad on Friday was the familiar one of «business as usual». The City took more interest in the revaluation of the Chinese currency.

Yet, re-reading Wells, I am struck by the close resemblance between our present unruffled state of mind and the mood of confidence – not to say complacency – he depicted in late Victorian England on the eve of the Martian invasion.

Do we simply, as many Londoners like to think, have nerves of steel? Or are we actually in denial about just how dangerous our situation is becoming – as surely as Wells’s Londoners were initially oblivious to the fateful import of the first Martian landings?

The intra-terrestrial threat we face today comes, we now know, from within our own national borders and is posed by renegade British Muslims. We simply do not know how many have already been persuaded – and trained – to become what Raphael Israeli has called, with black humour, «Islamikaze» bombers. Nor do we know how many more the Islamist fanatics will be able to recruit in British youth centres and Pakistani madrassas.

H G Wells warned us of how it would feel to fight a ‘War of the World’
By Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard. His new book, The War of the World, will be published by Penguin early next year.