John Papworth

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John Papworth (born 1921) is an English clergyman, writer and activist against big public and private organizations and for small communities and enterprises.

Life and work[edit]

Born in London, Papworth was reared in an orphanage in Essex. After leaving it, he worked as a baker's boy and then a school chef until he joined the British Home Guard during World War II; he served seven years as a military cook.[1]

After the war Papworth trained to be a vicar and became an ordained minister of the Church of England, serving in a number of parishes. In 1997 his comments about the morality of stealing from giant retail corporations resulted in international media attention and he was debarred from preaching.[1][2] Then Home Secretary Michael Howard called the comments "Shameful." Papworth said he was not encouraging theft, only saying he could comprehend it.[2]

During the war he joined the Communist Party but objected to its authoritarianism and was kicked out. He later joined the Labour Party and was a candidate for Salisbury in 1955. He also found that party too authoritarian and developed an opposition to large state and mass organizations and a preference for the small community.[1] He came to believe democracies dominated by remote party organizations could not meet peoples needs or stop war.[3]

In 1966 he got together with like-minded thinkers E.F. Schumacher, Leopold Kohr and Sir Herbert Read and founded and edited Resurgence magazine.[1][4] After leaving Resurgence he founded "Fourth World Review" magazine which promoted "small nations, governed by small communities".[1] From 1968 the publication sponsored several "First Assemblies of the Fourth World"; these consisted of people from around the world who envisioned creating a new society of small communities, small enterprises, and self-government in industry, public utilities, universities, etc.[3] Papworth also ran for British Parliament as a "Fourth World" candidate.[5] In later years he was a consultant to Greenpeace and an associate editor for The Ecologist magazine.[citation needed]

In the 1960s, he was imprisoned along with Bertrand Russell for anti-nuclear protests, and also was placed in Albany, Georgia mail for Civil Rights activities.[citation needed] Papworth has been active as a peace activist and believes small societies are less likely to sacrifice their citizens in nuclear war, or afford to pay for such weapons.[5] In the 1970s and early 1980s, Papworth wrote regularly for the pacifist newspaper Peace News.[6]

For nine years during the 1970s he was a rural development adviser to then President of Zambia, Dr Kenneth Kaunda.[5] He also founded the Village Industry Service in Zambia.[citation needed]

Papworth was the subject of two BBC documentaries entitled "No Man is an Island" and "Turbulent Priest". He also has lectured around the world.[citation needed]

In 2001 Papworth refused to return his census form stating the government had no right to such information. He was fined £120.[7]

A longtime resident of London,[1] he later moved to Purton, Wiltshire.[7] He edits a village magazine called "Purton Today"[8] and is Parish Councillor for Purton.[9] Papworth is a widower with three children.[citation needed]


  • The Economics of Humanism
  • New politics, Garlandfold, 1982; Small is powerful: the future as if people really mattered, Praeger, 1995
  • Shut Up and Listen: A New Handbook for Revolutionaries, self-published, 1997
  • Village democracy, Volume 25 of Societas (Imprint Academic), Societas Series, Ingram Publishing Services, 2006, ISBN 184540064X
  • Co-editor with Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, A pair of cranks: a compendium of essays by two of the most influential and challenging authors of the 20th century, (Selected essays by E.F. Schumacher and Leopold Kohr), New European, 2003, ISBN 1872410189.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Case Study: 85, and still campaigning for local democracy Paul Kingsnorth, The Ecologist, 1 September 2006. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b Cleric contorts theft amendment, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - 17 Mar 1997.
  3. ^ a b Cyril Dunn, In this world of Bigness a Move to Remain Small, St. Petersburg Times - 18 Apr 1968 .
  4. ^ E .F. Schumacher: His Life and Thought by Barbara Wood. Harper & Row, 1984. ISBN 0-06-015356-3, (p.348-349).
  5. ^ a b c Fighting for the Fourth World, New Internationalist, Issue 97, March 1981.
  6. ^ Articles of Peace : Celebrating Fifty Years of "Peace News", edited by Gail Chester and Andrew Rigby, Prism Press, 1986. ISBN 0-907061-90-7 (p.22).
  7. ^ a b Vicar fined for census protest, BBC, 13 September 2001.
  8. ^ "Purton Today", Winter 2013.
  9. ^ Purton Magazine, June 2006.

External links[edit]