was a Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....
of political biography
A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...
, an anarchist thinker, an essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...
ist and literary critic
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...
. He was also a poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...
, and published several volumes of travel writing
Travel literature is travel writing of literary value. Travel literature typically records the experiences of an author touring a place for the pleasure of travel. An individual work is sometimes called a travelogue or itinerary. Travel literature may be cross-cultural or transnational in focus, or...
. He founded in 1959 the journal Canadian Literature
Canadian Literature is a quarterly of criticism and review published out of the University of British Columbia.Canadian Literature was founded in 1959 by George Woodcock, who produced 73 issues before retiring in 1977. After Woodcock's retirement, the University of British Columbia invited William...
, 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
Post-War is the fifth studio album by M. Ward. It was released on August 22, 2006 by Merge Records. It features the single "To Go Home," a cover of a song written by Daniel Johnston. Guest appearances were made by Jim James of My Morning Jacket , Neko Case and Mike Mogis...
history of anarchism
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...
Woodcock was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba
Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province with an area of . The province has over 110,000 lakes and has a largely continental climate because of its flat topography. Agriculture, mostly concentrated in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to the province's economy; other...
, but moved with his parents to England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...
at an early age, attending Sir William Borlase's Grammar School
Sir William Borlase's Grammar School is a selective state grammar school accepting girls and boys aged 11–18 located in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England. It is situated on West Street, close to the town centre and also accepts students from nearby towns...
in Marlow and Morley College
Morley College is an adult education college in London, England. It was founded in the 1880s and has a student population of 10,806 adult students...
. 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
The Great Western Railway was a British railway company that linked London with the south-west and west of England and most of Wales. It was founded in 1833, received its enabling Act of Parliament in 1835 and ran its first trains in 1838...
and it was there that he first became interested in anarchism (specifically libertarian socialism
Libertarian socialism is a group of political philosophies that promote a non-hierarchical, non-bureaucratic, stateless society without private property in the means of production...
). 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
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a French politician, mutualist philosopher and socialist. He was a member of the French Parliament, and he was the first person to call himself an "anarchist". He is considered among the most influential theorists and organisers of anarchism...
, William Godwin
William Godwin was an English journalist, political philosopher and novelist. He is considered one of the first exponents of utilitarianism, and the first modern proponent of anarchism...
, Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...
and Peter Kropotkin
Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin was a Russian zoologist, evolutionary theorist, philosopher, economist, geographer, author and one of the world's foremost anarcho-communists. Kropotkin advocated a communist society free from central government and based on voluntary associations between...
It was during these years that he met several prominent literary figures, including T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...
and Aldous Huxley
Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel...
. He first came to know George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...
after the two had a public disagreement in the pages of the Partisan Review
Partisan Review was an American political and literary quarterly published from 1934 to 2003, though it suspended publication between October 1936 and December 1937.-Overview:...
. Orwell wrote that in the context of a war against Fascism, pacifism
Pacifism is the opposition to war and violence. The term "pacifism" was coined by the French peace campaignerÉmile Arnaud and adopted by other peace activists at the tenth Universal Peace Congress inGlasgow in 1901.- Definition :...
was "objectively pro-Fascist
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...
". 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
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.-English Language:*Fiction: Margaret Laurence, A Jest of God ....
Woodcock spent World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
working on a farm
A farm is an area of land, or, for aquaculture, lake, river or sea, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food , fibres and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production. Farms may be owned and operated by a single...
, as a conscientious objector
A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion....
. At Camp Angel
Camp Angel was Civilian Public Service camp number 56, one of many camps across the United States where conscientious objectors were given unpaid jobs of "national importance" as a substitute for World War II military service....
in Oregon, a camp for conscientious objectors, he was a founder of the Untide Press
The Untide Press, founded in 1943, attempted to bring poetry to the public in an inexpensive but attractive format.It was founded by writer William Everson, architect and printer Kemper Nomland, actor Kermit Sheets and editor / librarian William Eshelman, in a camp of conscientious objectors in...
, 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
Vancouver is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is the hub of Greater Vancouver, which, with over 2.3 million residents, is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country,...
, British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...
. In 1955, he took a post in the English department of the University of British Columbia
The University of British Columbia is a public research university. UBC’s two main campuses are situated in Vancouver and in Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley...
, 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 Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...
ans. He travelled to India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...
, studied Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...
, became friends with the Dalai Lama and established the Tibetan Refugee Aid Society
. He and his wife Inge also 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 has distributed $772,147 to 164 Canadian writers, as of July 2010.
Woodcock was honoured with several awards, including a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada
The Royal Society of Canada , may also operate under the more descriptive name RSC: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada , is the oldest association of scientists and scholars in Canada...
in 1968, the UBC Medal for Popular Biography in 1973 and 1976, and the Molson Prize
The Thomas Henry Pentland Molson Prize for the Arts is awarded by The Canada Council for the Arts. Two prizes are awarded annually to distinguished individuals. One prize is awarded in the arts, one in the social sciences and humanities...
in 1973. However, he only accepted awards given by his peers, refusing several awards given by the Canadian state, including the Order of Canada
The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order, admission into which is, within the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada, the second highest honour for merit...
. The one exception was the award of the Freedom of the City of Vancouver, which he accepted in 1994.
He is the subject of a biography, The Gentle Anarchist: A Life of George Woodcock
by George Fetherling
Douglas George Fetherling is a Canadian poet, novelist, journalist and essayist. One of the most prolific figures in Canadian letters, he has written and edited more than fifty books, including more than a dozen volumes of poetry, two novels, and a multi-volume memoir...
- Anarchy or Chaos - 1944
- The Incomparable Aphra - 1948
- Ravens and Prophets - 1952
- 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 Doukhobors - 1968 (with Ivan Avakumovic)
- The Hudson's Bay Company - 1970
- The Anarchist Prince: A Biographical Study of Peter Kropotkin - 1971 (with Ivan Avakumovic)
- Into Tibet: The Early British Explorers - 1971
- Victoria - 1971
- Gandhi - Fontana Modern Masters
The Fontana Modern Masters was a series of pocket guides on the writers, philosophers, and other thinkers and theorists whose ideas were shaping the intellectual landscape of the twentieth century. The first five titles were published on 12 January 1970 by Fontana Books, the paperback imprint of...
- 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 Northest - 1977
- The Anarchist Reader - 1977 (editor)
- Anima, or, Swann Grown Old: A Cycle of Poems - 1977
- Two Plays - 1977
- 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
- Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: A Biography - 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
Online texts and audio