William Woodruff's picture

William Woodruff


UK flag (1916 - 2008)

William Woodruff was born in 1916 into a family of Blackburn, Lancashire cotton workers. At 13 he left school and became a delivery boy in a grocer's shop. In 1933, with bleak prospects in the north of England, he decided to try his luck in London and migrated to the filth and squalor of the East End. Then in 1936 with the encouragement of a Jesuit priest and the aid of a London County Council Scholarship he went to Balliol College, Oxford. There he became an idealistic undergraduate who mingled with George Woodcock and Harold Wilson. During the Second World War he fought in North Africa and the Mediterranean region as a major and then a colonel. All these experiences formed the basis of a series of memoirs, including The Road to Nab End, originally published as Billy Boy, and Beyond Nab End, which emerged only years later.

After the war, he turned down the chance of a political career in favour of academia. He was lured to Harvard on a scholarship and remained in America teaching economic history in Illinois, Princeton and Florida, until he was 80. 61 published titles - hardbacks, softbacks and translations - bear his name.