Misquoting Harold Wilson’s “White Heat” speech

Usually Harold Wilson’s famous 1963 speech is quoted as something like Britain needed to be forged in the white heat of technology, or technological revolution.

Both of these are wrong.

I think Wikiquote has it right:
“In all our plans for the future, we are re-defining and we are re-stating our Socialism in terms of the scientific revolution. But that revolution cannot become a reality unless we are prepared to make far-reaching changes in economic and social attitudes which permeate our whole system of society. The Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution will be no place for restrictive practices or for outdated methods on either side of industry.”

Why rewrite science to technology? Wilson knew about technology, but he chose science. And his audience would have understood the word at that time.

A good and honest short quote for this might be “forged in the white heat of this [scientific] revolution”.

It is a powerful view, given by Wilson, that it is the scientific revolution and the science that drives the world, and enables the technology, and it is the science that should be supported, and certainly not just the technology.

We can only assume that people who misquote are being deliberately mendacious or simply ignorant.

And it is a shame in this world of technology and Web Science that we lose the import of the middle sentence: that we need to be prepared to make far-reaching changes in economic and social attitudes.

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