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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.
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 partial scholarship; however, he turned down the chance, because he would have had to become a member of the 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 (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.
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. 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 $887,273 to 180 Canadian writers, as of March 2012.
Woodcock died in Vancouver.
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. 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.
He is the subject of a biography, The Gentle Anarchist: A Life of George Woodcock by George Fetherling (1998), 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
- 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, 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 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
See also 
- "George Woodcock (1912–1995)". Canadian Literature. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
- George Woodcock page Anarchist Encyclopedia
Online texts and audio
- George Woodcock fonds at Queen's University Archives
- "The Tyranny of the Clock", free mp3 recitation of Woodcock's essay of the same name.
- "Anarchism by George Woodcock" a Review by Frank Mintz