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Golding, William

William Golding was born in 1911, in a Cornish village, and grew up in Newquay. His family were fairly forward-thinking and progressive for their time. His father was a schoolteacher who believed in some quite radical political ideas. He also had a strong faith in the sciences. They brought the young William up to think about the world for himself, and encouraged him to foster his own ideas and beliefs.

He studied first at Marlborough, an expensive boarding school, where he mainly focused on Physics and English. He continued his education at Brasenose College, Oxford. There he concentrated on English and, to satisfy his father’s wishes, Natural Sciences as well. Therefore, by the time he left university he had gained an intimate knowledge of English and Classical literature, coupled with a steely appreciation of the world of science. His first major book, a poetry collection, was published in 1934 – before he had even completed his degree.

In 1940, with Britain fighting an increasingly desperate war against Hitler’s Germany, Golding did his duty and enlisted in the navy. He soon found himself in charge of a rocket ship, and saw plenty of action. He was involved in the sinking of the German flagship, the Bismarck, and again during the Allied invasion of Normandy, northern France, in 1944.

After the Second World War, William Golding took a teaching job in Salisbury. It was while he was teaching that he wrote his first major novel, Lord of the Flies. Incredibly, some 21 publishers turned him down until he found someone willing to print his book.

Lord of the Flies sold very well in Britain, and later in America, and the proceeds from the book were enough to allow Golding to retire from teaching to write full-time. Over the years that followed, he was to publish many novels, namely The Inheritors (1955), Pincher Martin (1956), The Spire (1964), Darkness Visible (1979) and Rites of Passage (1980).

Golding was finally to receive the appreciation he deserved in 1983 when awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, ‘for his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today’. In a nutshell that means he was awarded the prize in recognition of the insights he had provided into human nature. Although many would argue that Golding peaked with Lord of the Flies, he went on to be knighted in 1988. He He died the ‘Grand Old Man of Literature’ in 1993, his final novel, Double Tongue, uncompleted.

Photo source: Dutch National Archives, The Hague, Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989
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William Golding was born

William Golding was born in the town of Newquay in Cornwall.

Golding’s school years

He attended Marlborough Grammar School in Wiltshire.

Golding started at the University of Oxford

Following his parents’ desires for him to follow the Natural Sciences, Golding studied at Brasenose College, Oxford.

He changed his degree from Science to Literature

Golding made it clear that his true passion was for English as he abandoned the Natural Sciences to pursue English Literature.

His poems were published

William Golding’s status as an author was established as he had his poems published by Macmillan.

Golding graduated

Golding was awarded a second class degree.

Golding became a teacher

Golding spent two years teaching at a Steiner school in Streatham, South London.

Golding returned to Oxford

He returned to Oxford, where he obtained a diploma in education.

He moved to Salisbury

Golding’s career as an educator progressed as he began teaching in Salisbury.

Golding got married

His marriage to Anne Brookfield took place in Maidstone.

Lord of the Flies was published

It was an editor at Faber & Faber that gave Golding the big break he needed; Lord of the Flies was the first of his books to be acknowledged and help make him the legendary author that he is now known as.

Lord of the Flies was made into a film

The novel was adapted for the screen by director Peter Brook.

Find out more about the film


Golding won the Nobel Prize

Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

He received a knighthood

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, becoming Sir William Golding.

Golding died aged 81

Golding died at his home in Cornwall.