Gerrard Winstanley, Diggers, Orwell and Reynolds


Gerrard Winstanley, born in Wigan and for a time a successful mercer before the upsets of the 1640s, was a leader of, and polemicist for, the Diggers, a small offshoot of the better-known and more powerful Levellers; the Levellers were themselves part of – though they were ultimately suppressed – the Puritan and Parliamentary opposition during the English Civil War and consequent Commonwealth (1649-1660).

In September 1944 George Orwell reviewed Selections from the Works of Gerrard Winstanley, edited by Leonard Hamilton with an Introduction by Christopher Hill. The Cresset Press had published a large octavo volume of 198 pages in a mainly khaki dustwrapper. Despite being produced in complete conformity to the war economy standards, its printers, the Chapel River Press, had made a volume of such quality that copies have survived in remarkably pristine condition today, seventy-odd years later.


We understand that the copy reviewed by Orwell was passed onto Michael Foot, who in turn passed it to its current owner, in another example of production quality being proved in its continued existence.

Orwell begins his review with a modern reference: ‘Every successful revolution has its June purge’, though he does not specify which June he is referring to, as this appears to be a popular month for revolutionaries to be suppressed: the Girondins in France in June 1793, the Nazis in June 1934, and the Stalinist opposition in June 1937. After more discussion Orwell expands on the suppression: ‘… the Diggers were swiftly crushed. The parvenu gentry who had won the civil war were willing enough to divide the lands of the Royalists among themselves but they had no intention of setting up an egalitarian society.’ Orwell points out that the troops sent against the Diggers tended to be sympathetic, as the Levellers were most active in the army, but Winstanley and his colleagues were driven off, and he ‘vanishes from history about 1660’.

Orwell in his review – it appeared in The Observer – does not quote other works, but his friend Reginald Reynolds was a Quaker and a historical pamphlet collector, who was familiar with the literature of the Civil War. Together Orwell and Reynolds would publish British Pamphleteers, an anthology of historic literature including Winstanley and other radicals.

Many reading Orwell’s review, though, would be familiar with the background to the revolutionary figures of the English Civil War through a number of books published in the previous decade. In 1940 the Left Book Club offered its members David W Petegorsky’s Left-Wing Democracy in the English Civil War.

LWDECW_fThe title sounds general, but the sub-title makes its subject explicit: ‘A Study of the Social Philosophy of Gerrard Winstanley’. The copy shown belonged to a student who was familiarising themself with economics and history. Notes on the endpapers refer to ‘Economic theory of revolution’, ‘natural law gave no justification of private property’, ‘”to know the secrets of nature is to know the works of God”‘, and ‘morality social [sic] determined & human nature a product of social conditions’ (this last, of course, Marx’s concept of base and superstructure). Christopher Hill’s Introduction to the Selections refers to Petegorsky’s book.

A work on the wider area, with a chapter on Winstanley, had been published in H J Stenning’s English translation: Cromwell and Communism: Socialism and Democracy in the Great English Revolution by Edward Bernstein. ‘Cromwell and Communism’ appears to be an addition to the title by either Stenning or his publishers, George Allan and Unwin in 1930, as Petegorsky in an appendix refers to the book in its 1895 German original as Sozialismus und Demokratie in der grossen Englischen Revolution, while its English title appears in his bibliography. It was reprinted in 1980 by Spokesman Books.

CAC_EB_fAccording to Orwell, ‘Winstanley’s thought links up with Anarchism rather than Socialism because he thinks in terms of a purely agricultural community living at a low level of comfort’.  Orwell goes onto to examine Winstanley’s complaint against the ‘Normans’, whom he blamed for the historic loss of common rights, on which Orwell would expand in his Introduction to British Pamphleteers. In his review, meanwhile, Orwell returned to the theme of his first sentence: ‘But alas! he (Winstanley) could see only too clearly that the victors of the civil war were themselves developing “Norman” characteristics.’ With hindsight we can now read a suggestion of Winstanley in Orwell’s own story of agricultural betrayal, Animal Farm.

Orwell’s review was criticized later in the month by Reg Groves for failing to emphasise Winstanley’s visionary side, but Groves retracted his complaint after hearing that this aspect had been cut by the newspaper subeditors on space grounds from the article submitted by Orwell. Groves – who was a member of the Balham Group, the original British Trotskyists – had received a sideways acknowledgement from Orwell in an earlier discussion of the Civil War.

In the conclusion to his 1940 review of The English Revolution: 1640, a collection of essays edited by Christopher Hill, Orwell wrote ‘The most interesting essay of the three, by Miss Margaret James, is on the materialistic interpretations of society which were already current in the mid-seventeenth century … It is a pity that Miss James fails to make a comparison between the seventeenth-century situation and the one we are now in. A parallel undoubtedly exists, although from the official Marxist [Orwell means CPGB] point of view the latter-day equivalents of the Diggers and Levellers happen to be unmentionable.’ One can infer from this pointed remark that Orwell and Groves had made the Digger comparison before.

BP_Contents 2

A poor quality reproduction of the contents page of British Pamphleteers, calling Winstanley ‘Gerard’.

Outside his collaboration with Reginal Reynolds, Orwell’s last comment on the Diggers seems to have come in ‘The Intellectual Revolt’, his 1946 essay series in the Manchester Evening News. Each essay was a thematic review. In the second, ‘What Is Socialism’ (an essay much less well-known than ‘What Is Fascism?’, because this series did not appear in the 1968 Collected Essays Journalism and Letters), Orwell concludes by considering Winstanley’s Selections, uses the words primitve Communism crushed by Cromwell, and then says ‘The “earthly paradise” has never been realised, but as an idea it never seems to perish in spite of the ease with which it can be debunked by practical politicians of all colours’. He ends ‘… it could be  claimed that the Utopians, at present a scattered minority, are the true upholders of Socialist tradition’.

by L J Hurst

Last updated February 12 2017



  • Orwell’s reviews of Winstanley and the Commonwealth can be found most easily in Orwell and Politics edited by Peter Davison (Penguin Books). It is Professor Davison’s detailed note that clarifies Reg Groves’ complaint and Orwell’s response about editorial abridgement.
  • Interest in Gerrard Winstanley, and inspiration for activities in line with his thought, is maintained by the Wigan Diggers. They now hold an annual festival in commemoration and celebration.
  • Quaker tradition has it that Winstanley joined their number – something mentioned by Bernstein, but Petegorsky has some quotations from the Restoration period suggesting that Winstanley was then regarded as a turncoat, who may have become a successful enclosed farmer.


The Adelphi Magazine – A 1930s home for George Orwell

The Adelphi was a magazine founded by John Middleton Murray, edited in the 1930s by Murray and then by Max Plowman. Its tone was progressive, associated with Christian pacifism and social advance. As with a number of similar magazines and imprints of the period it had reading and discussion groups around the country. Richard Rees, another editor, was able to give Orwell (often identified by his real name of Eric Blair or E A Blair in the pages of the magazine) the names of reading groups members on his journey to Wigan in 1936. It was through people he met in such ways that Orwell was able to see a wide range of housing, working and social conditions from the Black Country, through Lancashire and into Yorkshire.

Our illustration, from the collection of an Orwell Society member, shows an issue towards the end of the time that Orwell contributed. He was to disagree with Middleton Murray about the role that Pacificism could play in resisting the Nazis.

Adelphi 1939 f


The back cover contains a list of suggested reading from the year 1939. Notable is the recommendation of one of Orwell’s most explicitly titled pieces, and the first of the strong works he wrote around the period of the Second World War condemning the attitudes of the home nations to their colonies and native populations.

Adelphi 1939 rOne can see how The Adelphi approached the Second World War from the tone of its renewal slip.Adelphi 1939 renewalThe Dutch-based Remembering George Orwell website has a page showing some of the other issues of The Adelphi which contained works by Blair/Orwell. It was in this magazine that Orwell published ‘The Spike’ and ‘A Hanging’.  His poems included ‘Sometimes in the middle autumn days’, ‘Summer-like for an instant the autumn sun bursts out’, and ‘A dressed man and a naked man’. (The poetry is now available in George Orwell: Complete Poetry).


By L J Hurst

with thanks to Masha Karp

February 4 2017



Current Controversy

Readers will find that the Orwell Society has commented on current political controversies using its Facebook page. This is regularly updated, using quotations from the work of George Orwell relevant to events now.

We do not speculate on what Orwell would say or do today, but we can identify what Orwell did or said in similar circumstances.

Members of the Orwell Society committee have appeared on radio and TV speaking on this subject, and there are more interviews in print and online.

Two of our committee, Quentin Kopp and Leslie Hurst, were interviewed on the BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show on January 25th. It is available online until February 24th. The interview begins at 33 minutes.


Welcome to Dystopia

Donald Trump’s first few days of office have been such an explosion of propagandist grapeshot many commentators have been reaching for their copies of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm.

Orwell’s seminal essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ should also go on the emergency reading list.

As Orwell said political language from Conservatives to Anarchists ‘is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.’

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan says explaining away press secretary Sean Spicer’s claim of a record inauguration audience as ‘alternative facts’ means we have ‘come full Orwell.’

The full Orwell would recognise the game here of political speech being largely the defence of the indefensible.

As Orwell said ‘political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.’

Orwell never set foot in America. But he was an avid critic of its literature and politics.

He would be the first to concede that his political attitude to the USA was the very double-think he dramatized in Nineteen Eight Four.

He resented how post-war US economic dominance frustrated the realisation of the British socialist dream, but at the same time chose the American side against the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

If Orwell were alive today I imagine Trump would amuse and horrify him at the same time.

Indeed, Trump does exemplify and project the double-think power to ‘hold two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.’

He says he respects women and at the same time clearly objectifies them.

He constructs Russian President Vladimir Putin as his friend, even invites the Russians to hack the computer systems of his political opponent, but at the same time emphasises the need to match Russian nuclear ambitions.

The Trumpian binary dance of contradiction has spawned the exquisite American neologism ‘frenemy’ – a word that is classic Newspeak from Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Frenemies take us back to the pigs in Animal Farm when Snowball was the hero of the revolution against the evil farmer Mr Jones, loyal and courageous to Napoleon, but later the traitor, deviationist and renegade.

Napoleon’s propagandist porker called Squealer was capable of persuading all the other animals that it was Napoleon and not Snowball who had attacked Mr Jones. He had secret documents to prove it.

It is not very difficult to imagine the potential volte face on Putin at the Trumpian White House press conferences to come.

As all students of Orwellian literature will recall Squealer can ‘turn black into white’ and is expert in ‘New Belief’.

Orwell would have appreciated how the eruption of populist demagoguery in the Brexit and Trump electoral triumphs on both sides of the Atlantic have generated a ‘post-truth’ anxiety in the mainstream media.

The key media institutions of journalism sense a crisis. Public sphere news and current affairs interpretation is supposed to represent reality to the audience.

Orwell said ‘realism’ used to be called dishonesty, and was certainly part of the general political atmosphere of his time.

He wrote in his account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, Homage to Catalonia, that bombs are indeed impartial because they killed the man they were thrown at, and the man who threw them.

At present Trump’s Orwellian cantata is more of a carnival of propagandist lies, even when, as Orwell so poignantly observed, one is in fact telling the truth.

The dangers lie in phase two of a ‘post-truth’ and ‘alternative facts’ world.

Orwell’s key message in Nineteen Eighty-Four is that the purpose of propaganda is to narrow and limit human consciousness, confuse human conscience, and control and narrow the range of thinking.

After his death, Orwell’s crystal pane deconstruction of the corruption of revolution and the totalitarian game were adopted as propagandist weapons by the CIA against the Soviet Union.

The early transfer of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four to film was even financed by the CIA with the end plots changed from the Orwell originals.

If any Orwellian unmasking of Trump rhetoric begins to hurt, I imagine the day will come when the new President gestures with his characteristic shape and pinch hand movement and bellows ‘Fake Orwell.’

Professor Tim Crook, Orwell Society Committee Member

An abridged version of this article appeared in The Guardian 25th January 2017

Welcome to dystopia – George Orwell experts on Donald Trump


Orwell appreciated: just months after he died

One of the first appreciations of Orwell, published in June 1950 just months after his untimely death, came in a special edition of World Review. Interestingly, it mixed both celebration and critique. Orwell’s personality as much as his writings clearly fascinated many – and this is reflected in the articles here.


Around selections from Orwell’s Notebooks (from 18 May 1940 to 28 August 1941), which lie at the core of the journal, are contributions from a glittering array of (all male) journalists and intellectuals: Bertrand Russell, Tom Hopkinson, Aldous Huxley, John Beavan, Herbert Read, Malcolm Muggeridge and Stephen Spender.

World Review, published by Edward Hulton, described itself as ‘a monthly devoted to literature and the arts and all other aspects of our cultural interests’. It had previously published Orwell’s Appendix on Newspeak from his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (then shortly to be published) though without any background explanation. *i


In a brief editorial, Stefan Schimanski says that Orwell felt, ‘strangely enough’, that his diary should not appear until ten years after the events described. ‘Today, the records as he left them in his notebooks, have, indeed, the value of a document that brings to life a forgotten and short-lived period of high expectation.’

The first article (pp 5-7) – just a few hundred words – is by the philosopher Bertrand Russell. He highlights Orwell’s ‘admirable essay’ on Dickens and compares Animal Farm with Gulliver’s Travels. Swift’s satire, he suggests ‘expresses universal and indiscriminating hatred, Orwell’s has always an undercurrent of kindliness’. But he concludes on a critical note (pp 6-7): ‘The men of our day who resemble Goethe, Shelley or Wells in temperament and congenital capacity have mostly gone through, either personally or through imaginative sympathy, experiences more or less resembling imprisonment in Buchenwald. Orwell was one of these men. He preserved an impeccable love of truth, and allowed himself to learn even the most painful lessons. But he lost hope. This prevented him from being a prophet for our time.’

Next, Orwell’s Tribune colleague T. R. Fyvel contributes a 13-page biography. It is split into seven sections: after a brief Introduction, the second section is a moving, personal memoir of his time visiting Orwell in hospital just before he died. He writes (p. 7): ‘In this private ward, a square pane of glass is let into the door of each private sickroom, through which patient and caller can see each other. I visited him fairly often during these months, and my first glimpse of him was always through this glass, and always a slight shock, at the sight of his thin, drawn face, looking ominously waxen and still against the white pillow.’ Orwell would then immediately start to chat. ‘His need to plunge straight into conversation was more than ordinary shyness. It had something of the schoolboy about it. And to the last, even on his sick-bed, Orwell retained those boyish traits which were so marked in his character.’

But Orwell did not like talking about possible death. ‘To the last he kept his form. He read newspapers carefully, watching out for journalist misuse of words – one of his pet worries – and noting down instances. The last piece of work he was contemplating was to be a study of Joseph Conrad. The interaction of the Continental and English mind held a special interest for him.’ The last time he saw Orwell he seemed ‘particularly cheerful’ and they chatted about his plans to leave for Switzerland by ‘special charter aircraft’ and about their early schooldays.

In the third section, Fyvel examines Orwell’s class background with special reference to his comments in The Road to Wigan Pier. He next moves on to Orwell’s time at ‘a preparatory school in the South of England’ (St Cyprian’s, in Eastbourne, though for libel reasons its name is never given) at Eton and then, at the end of section five, in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. He comments (p. 13): ‘In personal affairs, Orwell was always extraordinarily reticent, so shy as to be almost secretive. Though he seemed to like to deal in personal asides, e.g. “When I was fourteen or fifteen I was an odious little snob”, this was always in terms of social classification: the self-revelation is only apparent. In his novels, on the other hand, he himself stands out; for, if he had sharp power of insight, he had much less of invention. From Flory, in his first novel, Burmese Days, to Winston Smith in 1984 [as the novel is consistently called throughout the journal, rather than Nineteen Eighty-Four], his last, all his heroes are Orwell himself, suitably transmuted.’

Section six (pp 14-18) moves rapidly through the biography taking in publication of Down and Out in Paris and London, The Clergyman’s Daughter and Burmese Days, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, his essays on Dickens and Kipling, his fighting in the Spanish Civil War, publication of Homage to Catalonia and finally of Coming up for Air. Orwell’s success, he stressed ‘remained confined to increasing prestige among a few discerning critics’. Fyvel adds in parenthesis: ‘Once, in 1940, he told me that he reckoned – he loved making such calculations – that his literary earnings over the decade 1930-40 worked out at not quite three pounds per week.’

In the final section (pp 18-20), Fyvel returns to personal reminiscences. ‘It was probably my second or third encounter with him which remained in my memory. It was at his small mews flat near Baker Street, in London, a rather poverty-stricken affair of one or two rather bare, austere rooms with second-hand furniture. I saw an extremely tall, thin man, looking more than his years, with gentle eyes and deep lines that hinted at suffering on his face.’ Following publication of Animal Farm in 1945, to ‘instantaneous success, especially in America’, Orwell, for the first time in his life, became ‘comparatively well off’. ‘But I found him in character quite unchanged – and physically very tired. … In spite of his many new friendships, he remained a solitary and a lonely man.’

In a section of the journal subtitled ‘Revaluations’, Malcolm Muggeridge, Orwell’s friend, former intelligence agent and later editor of Punch, contributes a surprisingly highly critical assessment of Burmese Days (pp 45-48). He writes: ‘Considered simply as a novel, Burmese Days is not particularly satisfactory. Most of the characters are stock figures, and most of the dialogue is intended rather to present them as such than to reproduce actual conversations.’ He continues (p. 46): ‘The description of the Europeans in their club, of their discussions about electing a “native” to membership, their quarrels and their drunkenness and their outbursts of hysteria, is somehow unreal.’

Perhaps in an attempt to offer some ‘balance’ he ends (somewhat unconvincingly) on a positive note: ‘Burmese Days, as I have said, is not on any showing a great novel. It is, however, extremely readable and, in some of its descriptive passages, brilliant.’

John Beavan, who next examines The Road to Wigan Pier (pp 48-51), was London editor at the time of the Guardian. Little did he know that he featured on Orwell’s infamous ‘little list’ of crypto-communists handed over to the government’s newly formed secret propaganda outfit, the Research Information Department, in 1949. There is an attempt to understand Orwell’s complex attitudes to class: ‘As a child he was taught that the poor were dirty and immoral and he was denied their society, though they seemed to him to be the most interesting and friendly of people. He never quite got over this.’ And Beavan ends: ‘Orwell produced at least one book that touched men of his time deeply, and that even his slenderest writings helped many of us to examine our consciences with something of his fierce honesty.’

Poet Stephen Spender, in his short article on Homage to Catalonia (pp 51-54), also takes the opportunity to comment on his personality: ‘He was perhaps the least Etonian character who has ever come from Eton. He was tall, lean, scraggy man, a Public House character, with a special gleam in his eye, and a home-made way of arguing from simple premises, which could sometimes lead him to radiant common sense, sometimes to crankiness.’ On Homage, Spender (p. 53) says that it had encouraged him to reflect on the meaning of the phrase ’the living truth’. ‘This has all too often in history been exploited in order to trample on human freedoms for the sake of some authoritarian teaching which is supposed to bring happiness in this world or the next. Orwell was extremely sceptical of the claim of any cause to represent “the living truth”. But he himself in his own life was an example of “the lived truth”, which is perhaps the most valuable truth anyone can offer to humanity.’

Tom Hopkinson, then editor of Picture Post, another Hulton publication, next looks at Animal Farm (pp 54-57). Actually, his stint at Picture Post was soon to be ended abruptly after Hulton objected to his publication in October 1950 of reports by James Cameron and photojournalist Bert Hardy of UN atrocities in the Korean War – and promptly sacked him. In his article, Hopkinson provides a precis of the novel, ending in glowing terms: ‘Orwell’s knowledge of farming helps to maintain the necessary faint illusion of reality. Nothing is shirked – even the relations of “Animal Farm” with its human neighbours. Everything is treated with combined lightness and assurance that suspend disbelief. … Animal Farm is a work of genius in the lofty tradition of English humorous writing.’

The art historian, poet, literary critic, anarchist, pacifist and philosopher, Herbert Read, in considering 1984 over just two pages, provides a rather strange explanation for its success (pp 58-59). He writes: ‘In his last years he saw only the menace of the totalitarian State, and he knew he had only the force left to warn us. It is the most terrifying warning that a man has ever uttered, and its fascination derives from its veracity. Millions of people have read this book. Why? It has no charm; it makes no concessions to sentiment. It is true that there are some traces of eroticism, but surely not enough to make the book, for those who seek that sort of thing, a worthwhile experience. An element of sado-masochism in the public may explain the strange success of this book.’

The novelist Aldous Huxley brings the collection of essays to a close with just half a page ‘Footnote about 1984’ (p. 60) critiquing the novel and at the same time promoting his own ideas. In his celebrated Brave New World (1932), Huxley says he prophesied the production of ‘Hypnopaedia’. It is now, he stresses ‘an accomplished fact’. ‘Pillow microphones attached to clock-controlled phonographs playing suitable recordings at regular intervals during the night are now being used quite extensively here by paediatricians who want to get rid of childish fears and bad habits, such as bed wetting, or to help backward children acquire larger vocabularies, and by students who want to learn foreign languages in a quarter of the time ordinarily required for the job.’ And he ends with a jibe at Orwell: ‘It looks very much as though the systematic brutality described in 1984 will seem to the really intelligent dictators of the future altogether too inefficient, messy and wasteful.’

Overall then, the various articles provide a fascinating if rather idiosyncratic insight into the early reception of Orwell.

Richard Lance Keeble, Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln
and chair of the Orwell Society


*i See World Review: A Magazine Recommended By Orwell


An Index to CBC’s Orwell Tapes: Those Who Knew Orwell

“CBC is the only media organization with a comprehensive archive of recordings of people who knew George Orwell from his earliest days to his final moments.  There are fifty hours of recordings.  Some of this oral history was included in “George Orwell, A Radio Biography” which aired on CBC radio on January 1, 1984 – the first day of Orwell’s famous year. But much of it is being aired now for the first time.”

Link to The Orwell Tapes, Part 1

An index document to all three episodes of the Orwell Tapes

The direct links to the podcast mp3 files, along with participants lists, are in the index document. All this information is taken from the CBC website.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Steven Wadhams, thank you

One Died, One Arrived: 80 Years Ago

On or about December 28th 1936, John Cornford, who was fighting with the British Battalion of the International Brigades at Lopera, near Córdoba in Spain against Franco’s fascist forces, was wounded and subsequently died. He was 21. His poems and other writings were published posthumously: the collection has most recently been published as Understand The Weapon, Understand The Wound (Carcanet).


‘Then let my private battle with my nerves,
The fear of pain whose pain survives,
The love that tears me by the roots,
The loneliness that claws my guts,
Fuse in the welded front our fight preserves.’

On the day that Cornford died, George Orwell was on a train travelling south through France to cross the Spanish border near the Mediterranean and continue into the Republican heartland of Barcelona. He had soon enrolled in the POUM Militia, due to his letters of introduction from the Independent Labour Party in Britain which had an affiliation with the POUM, and received basic training in the Lenin Barracks. Quickly he was sent to the front, ahead of the arrival of a British ILP contingent.

orwell-spainHis wife Eileen followed him, running the ILP office in Barcelona and at least once (recorded in a photograph) visiting the squad on the front near Huesca. Probably due to his great height Orwell was to be shot through the throat, putting his already precarious health at even greater risk, even after he had been treated at a militia sanitorium on the outskirts of Barcelona. When the Communists turned on the POUM, alleging that it was a fascist organisation masquerading as Trotskyist, the Orwells managed to escape – disguised as tourists – back into France. Orwell’s commander, Georges Kopp, was captured and starved to half his weight before he was released just before the Second World War; another Briton, Bob Smillie was not so lucky, he died, probably kicked to death.

For where is Manuel Gonzalez,
And where is Pedro Aguilar,
And where is Ramon Fenellosa?
The earthworms know where they are.

Your name and your deeds were forgotten
Before your bones were dry,
And the lie that slew you is buried
Under a deeper lie;

But the thing that I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.

In the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2016 we remember the fighters of 80 years ago with the words of Orwell’s friend Arthur Koestler, Arrival And Departure.


L J Hurst

Last Updated: 30 December 2016

All Eyes Are On Wigan: Museum Events 2017

The Spanish Civil War and Wigan

Museum of Wigan Life
Tuesday 28th February
12 noon – 1pm
Price: £2.50 per person (incl. tea/coffee)  booking required

We mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Jarama when the International Brigades helped stop Franco’s advance on Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. What made local people up sticks and fight for democracy and socialism in another country? What was the background to this international conflict? Find out more about the passion and sacrifice of the young volunteers of the International Brigades and their supporters both here and in Spain.

George Orwell – The Road to Wigan Pier at 80!
Stephen Armstrong

Museum of Wigan Life
Tuesday 7th March
12 noon – 1pm
Price: £2.50 per person (incl. tea/coffee)  booking required

Stephen Armstrong, author of The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited, marks the 80th birthday of Orwell’s original book with this fascinating talk about Eric Blair (George Orwell) and his writing. Orwell researched his book in the old reference library, now the Museum of Wigan Life, and his work has sometimes been controversial in the town. Armstrong examines the context in which Orwell wrote and his approach to social reportage. Come along and find out more about Wigan’s relationship with one of the 20th century’s most important writers.

Our thanks to Community History Manager Lynda Jackson in Wigan for the details.


A Christmas challenge to you all!

What are the other five books in George Orwell’s list?

Orwell wrote… a book which it seems impossible for me to grow tired of … If I had to make a list of six books which were to be preserved when all others were destroyed, I would certainly put Gulliver’s Travels among them.’


George Orwell never named the other five books he would preserve if only six were to be saved.

Do you think he had a real list of six books?
If so, what were the other five apart from Gulliver’s Travels?
If he did not have a list but asked you to help him write one, which others would you help him choose?

Why not hand out paper and pencils to your guests this Christmas and then compare lists of your own six most important books.

There are no prizes other than the chance of good conversation.

On the Orwell Prize website: ‘Politics Vs Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels’.

Wikipedia article, from which our illustration is taken.

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The Nineteen-Orwell? Our Second Podcast

On OS Voice, the Orwell Society podcast service, a discussion between Kyra Howell in the USA and Professor Tim Crook of Goldsmiths, University of London.

A wide-ranging conversation, covering everything from George Orwell’s schooldays, through the creation of ‘Big Brother’, to questions about privacy in the twenty-first century.

On the OS Voice page, you will find a transcription of their conversation.

Thank you to both participants.

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