George Woodcock

George Woodcock (/ˈwʊdˌkɑːk/; May 8, 1912 – January 28, 1995) was a Canadian writer of political biography and history, an anarchist thinker, an essayist and literary critic. He was also a poet and published several volumes of travel writing.[1] In 1959 he was the founding editor of the journal Canadian Literature which was the first academic journal specifically dedicated to Canadian writing.[2] He is most commonly known outside Canada for his book Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (1962).

George Woodcock
BornMay 8, 1912
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
DiedJanuary 28, 1995 (aged 82)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
GenrePolitical biography, critical essays
RelativesArthur Woodcock (father)
Margaret Gertrude Lewis (mother)


Woodcock was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but moved with his parents to England at an early age, attending Sir William Borlase's Grammar School in Marlow and Morley College. Though his family was quite poor, Woodcock's grandfather offered to pay his tuition if he went to Cambridge University which he turned down due to the condition that he undertake seminary training for the Anglican clergy.[3] Instead, he took a job as a clerk at the Great Western Railway and it was there that he first became interested in anarchism. He was to remain an anarchist for the rest of his life, writing several books on the subject, including Anarchism, the anthology The Anarchist Reader (1977), and biographies of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, William Godwin, Oscar Wilde and Peter Kropotkin. It was during these years that he met several prominent literary figures, including T. S. Eliot and Aldous Huxley, and forging a particularly close relationship with the art theorist Herbert Read.[4] Woodcock's first published work was The White Island, a collection of poetry, which was issued by Fortune Press in 1940.[5]

Woodcock spent World War II working as a conscientious objector on a farm in Essex, and in 1949, moved to British Columbia.

At Camp Angel in Oregon, a camp for conscientious objectors, he was a founder of the Untide Press, which sought to bring poetry to the public in an inexpensive but attractive format. Following the war, he returned to Canada, eventually settling in Vancouver, British Columbia. In 1955, he took a post in the English department of the University of British Columbia, where he stayed until the 1970s. Around this time he started to write more prolifically, producing several travel books and collections of poetry, as well as the works on anarchism for which he is best known.

Towards the end of his life, Woodcock became increasingly interested in what he saw as the plight of Tibetans. He travelled to India, studied Buddhism, became friends with the Dalai Lama and established the Tibetan Refugee Aid Society. With Inge, his wife, Woodcock established Canada India Village Aid, which sponsors self-help projects in rural India. Both organizations exemplify Woodcock's ideal of voluntary cooperation between peoples across national boundaries.

George and Inge also established a program to support professional Canadian writers. The Woodcock Fund, which began in 1989, provides financial assistance to writers in mid-book-project who face an unforeseen financial need that threatens the completion of their book. The Fund is available to writers of fiction, creative non-fiction, plays, and poetry. The Woodcocks helped create an endowment for the program in excess of two million dollars. The Woodcock Fund program is administered by the Writers' Trust of Canada and by March 2012 had distributed $887,273 to 180 Canadian writers.[6]

George Woodcock died at his home in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on January 28, 1995.[7]


Woodcock first came to know George Orwell after they had a public disagreement in the pages of the Partisan Review. In his "London Letter" published in the March–April 1942 issue of the review, Orwell had written that in the context of a war against fascism, pacifism was "objectively pro-fascist".[8] As the founder and editor of Now, an "anti-war paper" which Orwell had mentioned in his article as an example of publications that published contributions by both pacificts and fascists, Woodcock took exception to this.[8]:257 Woodcock stated that "the review had abandoned its position as an independent forum", and was now "the cultural review of the British Anarchist movement".[8] Despite this difference, the two became good friends and kept up a correspondence until Orwell's death, and Now would publish Orwell's article "How the Poor Die" in its November 6, 1946 issue.[9]

Woodcock and Orwell would both also be active members of the Freedom Defence Committee.

Woodcock later wrote The Crystal Spirit (1966), a critical study of Orwell and his work which won a Governor General's Award.[10] The title is taken from the last line of the poem written by Orwell in memory of the Italian militiaman he met in Barcelona in December 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, a meeting Orwell describes in the opening lines to Homage to Catalonia (1938).[11]


Woodcock was honoured with several awards, including a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada in 1968, the UBC Medal for Popular Biography in 1973 and 1976, and the Molson Prize in 1973. In 1970, he received an honorary doctorate from Sir George Williams University, which later became Concordia University.[12] However, he only accepted awards given by his peers, refusing several awards given by the Canadian state, including the Order of Canada. The one exception was the award of the Freedom of the City of Vancouver, which he accepted in 1994.[13]

He is the subject of a biography, The Gentle Anarchist: A Life of George Woodcock (1998) by George Fetherling, and a documentary "George Woodcock: Anarchist of Cherry Street" by Tom Shandel and Alan Twigg.

Selected bibliography

  • Anarchy or Chaos – 1944
  • The Incomparable Aphra – 1948
  • The Anarchist Prince: A Biographical Study of Peter Kropotkin – 1950 (with Ivan Avakumovic)
  • Ravens and Prophets – 1952
  • Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – 1956
  • Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements – 1962
  • Faces of India: A Travel Narrative – 1964
  • The Crystal Spirit: A Study of George Orwell – 1966
  • The Greeks in India – 1966
  • The Doukhobors – 1968 (with Ivan Avakumovic)
  • The British in the Far East – 1969
  • The British in the Middle East – 1970
  • The Hudson's Bay Company – 1970
  • Into Tibet: The Early British Explorers – 1971
  • Victoria – 1971
  • GandhiFontana Modern Masters, 1972
  • Dawn and the Darkest Hour: A Study of Aldous Huxley – 1972
  • Rejection of Politics and Other Essays on Canada, Canadians, Anarchism and the World – 1972
  • Canada and the Canadians – 1973
  • Who Killed the British Empire?: An Inquest – 1974
  • Amor de Cosmos: Journalist and Reformer – 1975
  • Gabriel Dumont: The Métis Chief and his Lost World – 1975
  • South Sea Journey – 1976
  • Peoples of the Coast: The Indians of the Pacific Northwest – 1977
  • The Anarchist Reader – 1977 (editor)
  • Anima, or, Swann Grown Old: A Cycle of Poems – 1977
  • Two Plays – 1977
  • Thomas Merton Monk And Poet – A Critical Study – 1978
  • The World of Canadian Writing: Critiques and Recollections – 1980
  • 100 Great Canadians – 1980
  • Confederation Betrayed! – 1981
  • The Meeting of Time and Space: Regionalism in Canadian Literature – 1981
  • Taking it to the Letter – 1981
  • Orwell's Message: 1984 & the Present – 1984
  • Strange Bedfellows: The State and the Arts in Canada – 1985
  • The University of British Columbia: A Souvenir – 1986 (with Tim Fitzharris)
  • Northern Spring: The Flowering of Canadian Literature in English – 1987
  • Caves in the Desert: Travels in China – 1988
  • The Purdy-Woodcock Letters: Selected Correspondence, 1964–1984 – 1988
  • William Godwin: A Biographical Study – 1989
  • A Social History of Canada – 1989
  • Powers of Observation – 1989
  • The Century that Made Us: Canada 1814–1914 – 1989
  • British Columbia: A History of the Province – 1990
  • Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana & Other Poems – 1991
  • Anarchism and Anarchists: Essays – 1992
  • The Cherry Tree on Cherry Street: And Other Poems – 1994
  • Marvellous Century: Archaic Man and the Awakening of Reason – 2005

See also


  1. ^ John Robert Colombo (January 1, 1984). Canadian Literary Landmarks. Dundurn. pp. 280–. ISBN 978-0-88882-073-0. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  2. ^ Gabriella Reznowski (February 7, 2011). Literary Research and Canadian Literature: Strategies and Sources. Scarecrow Press. pp. 89–. ISBN 978-0-8108-7769-6. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  3. ^ Canadian Literature, "About George Woodcock" Archived January 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  4. ^ David Goodway, Herbert Read Reassessed (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1998) p.5
  5. ^ Yemi Ogunyemi (July 15, 2005). The Writers and Politics. iUniverse. pp. 12–. ISBN 978-1-4620-9131-7. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  6. ^ The Woodcock Fund Writers' Trust of Canada. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  7. ^ George Woodcock Notice – New York Times. Published February 1, 1995. Retrieved September 11, 2013.
  8. ^ a b c Orwell, Sonia and Angus, Ian (eds.) The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 2: My Country Right or Left, pp. 210–212 (London, Penguin)
  9. ^ Gordon Bowker (March 14, 2013). George Orwell. Little, Brown Book Group. pp. 477–. ISBN 978-1-4055-2805-4. Retrieved September 11, 2013.
  10. ^ Hiebert, Matt. "In Canada and Abroad: The Diverse Publishing Career of George Woodcock". Archived August 19, 2013, at Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  11. ^ "The Crystal Spirit" Archived April 7, 2014, at the Wayback Machine George Orwell Novels. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  12. ^ "Honorary Degree Citation - George Woodcock* | Concordia University Archives". Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  13. ^ Freedom of the City honorees City of Vancouver Official Site. Retrieved September 12, 2013.

Further reading

  • Antliff, Mark. "Pacifism, Violence and Aesthetics: George Woodcock's Anarchist Sojourn, 1940-1950 1." Anarchist Studies 23.1 (2015): 15-44.
  • Antliff, Allan, and Matthew S. Adams. "George Woodcock's transatlantic anarchism." Anarchist Studies 23.1 (2015): 6-14.
  • Evren, Süreyyya, and Ruth Kinna. "George Woodcock: The Ghost Writer of Anarchism 1." Anarchist Studies 23.1 (2015): 45-61.
  • Adams, Matthew S. "Memory, History, and Homesteading: George Woodcock, Herbert Read, and Intellectual Networks 1." Anarchist Studies 23.1 (2015): 86-104.
  • Galt, George (1995). "George Woodcock's Politics: the Uses of Anarchism". Queen's Quarterly. 102 (1): 149–157. ISSN 0033-6041 – via ProQuest.

External links

1966 Governor General's Awards

Each winner of the 1966 Governor General's Awards for Literary Merit was selected by a panel of judges administered by the Canada Council for the Arts.

1967 in Canada

1967 is remembered as one of the most notable years in Canada. It was the centenary of Canadian Confederation and celebrations were held throughout the nation. The most prominent event was Expo 67 in Montreal, the most successful World's Fair ever held up to that time, and one of the first events to win international acclaim for the country. The year saw the nation's Governor General, Georges Vanier, die in office; and two prominent federal leaders, Official Opposition Leader John Diefenbaker, and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson announced their resignations. The year's top news-story was French President Charles de Gaulle's "Vive le Québec libre" speech in Montreal. The year also saw major changes in youth culture with the "hippies" in Toronto's Yorkville area becoming front-page news over their lifestyle choices and battles with Toronto City Council. A new honours system was announced, the Order of Canada. In sports, the Toronto Maple Leafs won their 13th and last Stanley Cup.

In mountaineering, the year saw the first ascents of the highest peak in the remote Arctic Cordillera

1967 in poetry

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature (for instance, Irish or France).

1977 in poetry

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature (for instance, Irish or France).

Anarchism (Woodcock book)

Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements is a 1962 book about the history of anarchism by George Woodcock.

Anarchy (magazine)

Anarchy was an anarchist monthly magazine produced in London from March 1961 until December 1970. It was published by Freedom Press and edited by its founder, Colin Ward with cover art on many issues by Rufus Segar. The magazine included articles on anarchism and reflections on current events from an anarchist perspective, e.g. workers control, criminology, squatting.

The magazine had irregular contributions from writers such as Marie Louise Berneri, Paul Goodman, George Woodcock, Murray Bookchin, and Nicholas Walter.A second series of Anarchy was published into the 1980s with an editorship that included Chris Broad and Phil Ruff.Freedom Press later published A Decade of Anarchy 1961-1970: Selections from the Monthly Journal Anarchy which collected writing from the first series as edited by Colin Ward. Cover designs for every issue are collected in Autonomy: The Cover Designs of Anarchy 1961‒1970 edited by Daniel Poyner.

Canadian Literature (journal)

Canadian Literature is a quarterly journal of criticism and review, founded in 1959 and published by the University of British Columbia. The journal publishes articles which discuss and inform about the academic aspects of the Canadian literary field, and also a range of creative material from Canadian and international scholars, writers, and poets. Each issue contains a variety of articles and an extensive book reviews section. Rather than focusing on a single theoretical approach, Canadian Literature contains articles on all subjects relating to writers and writing in Canada. Each issue contains both English and French content from a range of contributors and has been described as "critically eclectic".

Cantonal rebellion

The Cantonal rebellion was a cantonalist uprising that took place during the First Spanish Republic, starting on July 12 of 1873 in Cartagena. In the following days it spread through many regions including, Valencia, Andalusia (especially Granada), Cartagena (which endured for several months the besieging army of Nicolás Salmerón) and in the provinces of Salamanca and Ávila, all of them in places that came to articulate cantonalism. The attempt to establish cantons took place in Extremadura, Coria, Hervás and Plasencia. Pi y Margall, seeing that cantons declared independent by the tardiness of the taxation of improvements, resigned from his post to be succeeded by Salmerón.

The Catalan politician Francesc Pi i Margall became the principal translator of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's works into Spanish and later briefly became president of Spain in 1873 while being the leader of the Federal Democratic Republican Party. According to George Woodcock "These translations were to have a profound and lasting effect on the development of Spanish anarchism after 1870, but before that time Proudhonian ideas, as interpreted by Pi, already provided much of the inspiration for the federalist movement which sprang up in the early 1860s." According to the Encyclopædia Britannica "During the Spanish revolution of 1873, Pi y Margall attempted to establish a decentralized, or “cantonalist,” political system on Proudhonian lines."

Fergus (novel)

Fergus, a novel by Northern Irish-Canadian writer Brian Moore, was published in 1970, in the United States by Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

It tells the story of Fergus Fadden, an Irish-born writer living in California, who is haunted by ghosts from his past, including that of his father.Moore's biographer, Patricia Craig, described it as "wholly original, and singularly diverting". Jo O'Donoghue says that, in Fergus, "Moore carries the theme of family influence to an extreme conclusion". George Woodcock, reviewing the novel for the quarterly journal Canadian Literature, said: "Fergus's nightmare is never less than convincing. The novel that bears his name is a masterpiece of the best kind of fantasy".

Francesc Pi i Margall

Francesc Pi i Margall (Spanish: Francisci Pi y Margall) (29 April 1824 – 29 November 1901) was a Spanish politician federalist and libertarian socialist statesman, historian, and political philosopher and romanticist writer. He was briefly president of the short-lived First Spanish Republic in 1873.

Freedom Defence Committee

The Freedom Defence Committee was a UK-based organisation set up on 3 March 1945 to "uphold the essential liberty of individuals and organisations, and to defend those who are persecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of speech, writing and action." Chaired by Herbert Read, with Fenner Brockway and Patrick Figgis as vice-chairmen, the Committee's secretary was Ethel Mannin. Later, George Orwell became a vice-chair and George Woodcock, secretary.The Committee came into being as a result of Freedom Press and five private houses being raided by police on 12 December 1944, and three editors of War Commentary, Vernon Richards, Philip Sansom and John Hewetson being prosecuted at the beginning of 1945 for conspiring "to undermine the affections of members of His Majesty's Forces" and because the National Council for Civil Liberties was considered a Communist front.The three were convicted at the Central Criminal Court, "Old Bailey", on 27 April 1945, and sentenced to 9 months imprisonment.An open letter requesting urgent funds was published in the 18 September 1948 issue of Socialist Leader and was signed by Benjamin Britten, E. M. Forster, Augustus John, Orwell, Read and Osbert Sitwell.It was dissolved in 1949.

George Woodcock (cricketer)

George Woodcock (21 April 1894 – 22 February 1968) played first-class cricket in one match for Somerset in 1921. He was born at Warrington, then in Lancashire, and died at Bruton, Somerset.

Woodcock was a right-handed lower-order batsman and a right-arm medium-pace bowler. His single first-class cricket appearance was as a member of what was, according to Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, "a very weak Somerset team" in the match against Cambridge University at Cambridge in May 1921. Somerset were beaten by an innings within two days, but Woodcock's own contribution was not insubstantial. In the first innings, he made only five, but his medium pace bowling took four of the seven Cambridge wickets to fall. Then, when Somerset fell to 84 for eight wickets in the second innings, requiring 301 to make Cambridge bat again and with Cuthbert Fairbanks-Smith unable to bat, Woodcock and Edward Baker, a pre-First World War Cambridge cricketer also playing his only match for Somerset, put on 128 for the ninth (and last) wicket, each of them making 63.Despite this personal success, Woodcock never played first-class cricket again.

George Woodcock (trade unionist)

George Woodcock, (20 October 1904 – 30 October 1979) was a British trade unionist and general secretary of the Trades Union Congress from 1960 to 1969.

Born and brought up in Bamber Bridge, Lancashire, he started work at age 12 in the local cotton mill. He became, in 1924, an official of the Bamber Bridge and District Weavers' Union. He was also active in the Independent Labour Party and the Labour Party. In 1929 he won a TUC scholarship to Ruskin College, Oxford, in 1929. Having distinguished himself at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and following two years in the civil service, Woodcock joined the TUC in 1936 as head of the research and economic department. Here, Woodcock was much influenced by leading moderates in the trade union movement, such as Walter Citrine and Ernest Bevin, and also by the economic ideas of John Maynard Keynes.

In 1947 he became the TUC's Assistant General Secretary and in 1960, was appointed General Secretary, serving in that position until 1969. In 1970 Woodcock was a candidate for the Chancellorship of the University of Kent at Canterbury, but lost to Jo Grimond.

New Canadian Library

The New Canadian Library is a publishing imprint of the Canadian company McClelland and Stewart. The series aims to present classic works of Canadian literature in paperback. Each work published in the series includes a short essay by another notable Canadian writer, discussing the historical context and significance of the work. These essays were originally forewords, but after McClelland and Stewart's 1985 sale to Avie Bennett, the prefatory material was abandoned and replaced by afterwords.It was founded by Malcolm Ross with the intention of providing affordable material for his students; David Staines has been the general editor of the series since 1986. In 2007 the University of Toronto Press published New Canadian Library: The Ross-McClelland Years, 1952-1978, a work by Janet Beverly Friskney that provides an account of the New Canadian Library during the years of Ross's editorship.

Now (1940–1947)

NOW was a political and literary periodical founded in 1940 by George Woodcock, its first editor, from 1940 to 1941, and by Freedom Press from 1943 to 1947.In the words of its founder, it was established as a review "for publishing literary matter and also as a forum for controversial writing which could not readily find publications under wartime conditions", and included works by "Anarchists, Stalinists, Trotskyists, pacifists, and New Statesman moderates".In 1945 Now published Marie-Louise Berneri's "Sexuality and Freedom", one of the first

discussions of the ideas of Wilhelm Reich in Britain.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (Woodcock biography)

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon is a biography of the French anarchist written by George Woodcock and first published in 1956 by Macmillan.

Second International

The Second International (1889–1916), the original Socialist International, was an organization of socialist and labour parties formed in Paris on 14 July 1889. At the Paris meeting, delegations from twenty countries participated. The International continued the work of the dissolved First International, though excluding the still-powerful anarcho-syndicalist movement and unions and by 1922 April 2 at a major post-World War I conference it began to reorganize into the Labor and Socialist International.

Sir Fowell Buxton (ship)

Sir Fowell Buxton was a ship of 446 tons. She was registered in the port of London in 1851 and served the Australian Line of Packets. Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton was a noted British abolitionist. Her first captain was John Hacker, and at the time of her last voyage her master was George Woodcock.

The Anarchist Prince

The Anarchist Prince is a biography of Peter Kropotkin by George Woodcock and Ivan Avakumović.

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