William Woodruff

William Woodruff
William Woodruff
Born September 12, 1916(1916-09-12)
Blackburn, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Died September 23, 2008(2008-09-23) (aged 92)
Gainesville, Florida, United States
Occupation Professor, historian, writer
Nationality British
Citizenship British, United States (naturalised)
Alma mater St Catherine's College, University of Oxford
Harvard University (Fulbright Scholar)
Subjects Economic and world history, autobiography, fiction
Notable work(s) The Road To Nab End: A Lancashire Childhood
Beyond Nab End
Vessel of Sadness
Impact of Western Man - A Study of Europe's Role in the World Economy, 1750-1960
A Concise History of the Modern World - 1500 to the Present
Spouse(s) Katharine (married 1940 - her death in 1959)
Helga (married 1960 - his death)

William Woodruff (September 12, 1916 - September 23, 2008) was a professor of world history, but perhaps most noted for his two autobiographical works: The Road to Nab End and its sequel Beyond Nab End; both became bestsellers in the United Kingdom.[1] The memoirs, covering Woodruff's impoverished upbringing in an English weaving community during the Great Depression, contain significant amounts of social commentary about the conditions in which he lived.[2]


Early life

Woodruff was born on September 12, 1916 in Blackburn, Lancashire. His parents were both cotton weavers by trade (although at the time of his birth his father was serving on the Western Front).[3] The Road to Nab End vividly describes his upbringing and his family's fight to survive the Lancashire cotton industry's initial downturn in 1920, through its decline in the 1920s, and the community's slide into the Great Depression that followed. Woodruff contributed to his family's income, initially as a newspaper delivery boy before and after school.[3] He entered the workforce as a "grocer's lad" (shop assistant) at the age of 14, and after several enforced changes of job decided to leave Lancashire for a promise of a job in London at the age of 16.

London and Oxford

Beyond Nab End describes his life after arriving in London. He worked for two years as a "sand rat" in an East End iron foundry (the sand being used to make moulds into which molten iron was poured).[3] He attended night school, discovering a love of learning (or perhaps re-discovering, as there are clear indications that his grandmother Bridget, and other adults, encouraged this love when he was younger).[4] In 1936, with the aid of a London County Council scholarship, he gained a place at the Catholic Workers College (later Plater College), Oxford. In 1938 he was then admitted as a fully accredited member of the University of Oxford, joining St Catherine’s Society in St Aldates (now St Catherine's College). In a unique gesture, Oxford waived its entrance examination to admit him.[5] It was at Oxford that he met his first wife Katharine, whom he married in 1940.[3]

World War II

In 1939 he volunteered for the army and during the Second World War he fought with the 24th Guards Brigade of the British 1st Infantry Division in North Africa and the Mediterranean region.[3] His wartime experiences became the basis of his work Vessel of Sadness, which A. L. Rowse called one of the "most sensitive and moving books of the war, both authentic and poetic" in a review in the Times Literary Supplement.[3]

At the end of 1945 he returned to the wife he had seen for "five weeks in five years" and his eldest son, whom he had never met.[3] His first wife died of cancer in 1959, and Woodruff remarried in 1960.[2]

Academic career

In 1946 he renewed his studies in economic and world history at Oxford. In 1950 he became a Houblon-Norman research fellow supported by the Bank of England, and in 1952 he went as a Fulbright Scholar to Harvard University.[3] He then spent a period as a professor at the University of Illinois before moving in 1956 to head the Department of Economic History at the University of Melbourne, Australia, where he met his second wife Helga.[3] He followed this with various visiting professorships to Princeton, Berlin, Tokyo and Oxford. He was a Graduate Research Professor at the University of Florida from 1966 to his retirement in 1996, when he became a Professor Emeritus.[3]


He died in Gainesville, Florida on September 23, 2008.[6] He is survived by his wife Helga, their daughter and four sons, and by two sons from his first marriage.[3]


Academic history

  • Impact of Western Man - A Study of Europe's Role in the World Economy, 1750-1960, London, Macmillan, 1969. It was a path-breaking work which explored the extrusive aspect of European history.
  • America's Impact on the World: A Study of the Role of the United States in the World Economy - 1750-1970, London, Macmillan, 1975.

The interrelatedness of continents continued to be the focus of further studies.

Autobiographical works



External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • William Woodruff (Upper Canada politician) — William Woodruff (October 1 1793 ndash; June 1860) was a merchant and political figure in Upper Canada.He was born in Middleton, Connecticut in 1793 and came to the Niagara peninsula in Upper Canada with his family around 1795, settling at St.… …   Wikipedia

  • Woodruff (disambiguation) — Woodruff is a herbaceous perennial plant.Woodruff may also refer to:People*Abraham O. Woodruff (1872–1904), member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, and son of Wilford Woodruff *Blake… …   Wikipedia

  • William E. Woodruff — can refer to a number of different people in American history. *William E. Woodruff (politician) (24 December 1795–19 June 1885) was an early American journalist, politician, and pioneer of Arkansas… …   Wikipedia

  • William E. Woodruff (politician) — William Edward Woodruff (24 December 1795–19 June 1885) was an early American politician and a pioneer journalist of Arkansas.Born on a Long Island, New York farm, Woodruff was apprenticed to a Sag Harbor printer at the age of 14, and in 1818… …   Wikipedia

  • William D. Bishop — William Darius Bishop (* 14. September 1827 in Bloomfield, New Jersey; † 4. Februar 1904 in Bridgeport, Connecticut) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker. Zwischen 1857 und 1859 vertrat er den Bundesstaat …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • William J. Fitzgerald — William Joseph Fitzgerald (* 2. März 1887 in Norwich, Connecticut; † 6. Mai 1947 ebenda) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker. Zwischen 1937 und 1939 sowie nochmals von 1941 bis 1943 vertrat er den zweiten Wahlbezirk des Bundesstaates Connecticut… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • William E. Woodruff (soldier) — William E. Woodruff was an American soldier who served as colonel of the 25th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War. Woodruff was given temporary brigade and division command in the Army of the Cumberland, but not… …   Wikipedia

  • William W. Ellsworth — William Wolcott Ellsworth (* 10. November 1791 in Windsor, Hartford County, Connecticut; † 15. Januar 1868 in Hartford, Connecticut) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker und Gouverneur des …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • William J. Miller — William Jennings Miller (* 12. März 1899 in North Andover, Essex County, Massachusetts; † 22. November 1950 in Wethersfield, Connecticut) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker. Zwischen 1939 und 1949 vertrat er mehrfach den ersten… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • William Kennedy (Politiker, 1854) — William Kennedy (1914) William Kennedy (* 19. Dezember 1854 in Naugatuck, Connecticut; † 19. Juni 1918 ebenda) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker. Zwischen 1913 und 1915 vertrat er den Bundesstaat Connecticut im US Repräsentantenhaus …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.