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photograph by Henry Gichner

William Woodruff (1916-2008) was a world historian who studied the global forces that have shaped the modern world.


In his eighties he retired from academia to write about his own remarkable childhood. He was surprised when his books became best sellers in Britain.


He was born 12 September 1916 in Blackburn, Lancashire, England, a once prosperous cotton textile town which suffered industrial collapse in the 1920s and '30s. When his parents lost their jobs he supplemented their meager income by delivering newspapers. At thirteen he left school and became a delivery boy in a grocer's shop. The Road to Nab End describes the joys and sorrows of a family that refused to be crushed by fate.

At the age of sixteen, when he was a temporary laborer in a brickyard, he ran away to London. For two years he worked as a 'sand rat' in an iron foundry. Discovering a love of learning, he attended night school. In 1936, with the aid of a London County Council Scholarship, he went to Oxford University. That is the story of Beyond Nab End, a story that abruptly ended with war.  

During the Second World War he fought with the 24th Guards Brigade of the British Army in North Africa and the Mediterranean region. From the crucible of war he forged his novel Vessel of Sadness.

Abacus, London 2005
Eland, London 2011
Abacus, London 2003
Abacus. London 2004