8, 1912 - January 28, 1995
George Woodcock 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.In 1959 he was the founding editor of the journal Canadian Literature which was the first academic journal specifically dedicated to Canadian writing.He is most commonly known outside of Canada for his book Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (1962).
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. 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. Woodcock's first published work was The White Island,
a collection of poetry, which was issued by Fortune Press in 1940.
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.
George Woodcock died at his home in Vancouver, Canada, on January 28, 1995.