George Woodcock

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George Woodcock (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. He founded in 1959 the journal Canadian Literature, the first academic journal specifically dedicated to Canadian writing. He is perhaps best remembered elsewhere for writing Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (1962), the first post-War history of anarchism.

Contents

Life

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 had the opportunity to go to Oxford University on a scholarship; however, he turned down the chance, because he would have had to acknowledge a religious affiliation. Instead, he took a job as a clerk at the Great Western Railway and it was there that he first became interested in anarchism (specifically libertarian socialism). 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. He first came to know George Orwell after the two had a public disagreement in the pages of the Partisan Review. Orwell wrote that in the context of a war against Fascism, pacifism was "objectively pro-Fascist". As a pacifist himself, Woodcock took exception to this. Despite this difference, the two met and became good friends. Woodcock later wrote The Crystal Spirit (1966), a critical study of Orwell and his work which won a Governor General's Award.

Woodcock spent World War II working on a farm, as a conscientious objector. 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.

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