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Discover Ransome

  • Where was Arthur Ransome during Lenin’s funeral?
  • Which of his books won the first Carnegie medal, the most prestigious award for children’s literature?
  • How did he come to live “snatches from a dozen different lives”?

There are short answers to the first two questions. Arthur Ransome was an eye-witness at Lenin’s funeral in 1924. In 1937 he received the Carnegie medal for Pigeon Post, the 6th of his celebrated Swallows and Amazons novels.

The day of the funeral was one of the coldest I have ever known in Moscow…
The Autobiography of Arthur Ransome

But there are also longer answers. For Ransome’s “lives” as a literary critic, story-teller, folklorist, journalist and children’s author interweave. His interest in story-telling led him to Russian folklore. Whilst in Russia the First World War made him into a reporter. In turn journalism refined his style into the direct, seemingly effortless prose of Pigeon Post.

Introductory biography

Arthur Ransome, 1916

Arthur Ransome was born in Leeds, in 1884, and educated at Rugby School. He abandoned a chemistry degree at the Yorkshire College (now Leeds University) in order to pursue his growing passion for writing. Moving to London, he became a publisher’s office boy before serving his literary apprenticeship as a ghost-writer, essayist and storyteller in the vibrant, pre-war Bohemian community. In 1913 he travelled to Russia to study folklore and write Old Peter’s Russian Tales.

The First World War turned Ransome into a journalist. He reported on the Eastern Front and the growing political turmoil in Russia for the Daily News and Manchester Guardian. His political journalism led to his being one of the few Westerners to know the leading Bolsheviks personally and, in consequence, to involvement in both diplomatic and intelligence circles.

In 1924 he married Trotsky’s secretary, Evgenia Shelepina, before returning to Britain, where he continued to work for the Guardian. As a political journalist he travelled to Egypt and China; as an essayist he wrote his highly-regarded Rod and Line series of fishing essays and numerous other articles. He resigned from the Guardian in 1929, and between 1930 and 1947 created his famous Swallows and Amazons series of children’s novels. Ransome received the first Carnegie Medal for Children’s Literature, for Pigeon Post, in 1937, an honorary MA (Durham) and D. Litt (Leeds) and, in 1953 was made CBE. He died in 1967.

Go to our detailed biography.

Simplified timeline

Arthur Ransome, 1917

  • 1884: Born in Leeds (18 January);
  • 1885: Annual holidays at Nibthwaite began;
  • 1893: Entered Old College, Windermere;
  • 1897: Father, Cyril Ransome died, Nibthwaite holidays end;
  • 1897: Entered Rugby School;
  • 1901: Entered Yorkshire College (now Leeds University) to read chemistry;
  • 1902: Abandoned university to become publisher’s office boy in London;
  • 1903: Met WG Collingwood;
  • 1904: First book published, The ABC of Physical Culture;
  • 1907: First significant work, Bohemia in London published;
  • 1909: Married Ivy Constance Walker;
  • 1910: Tabitha Ransome born;
  • 1913: Sued for libel by Lord Alfred Douglas;
  • 1913: First visit to Russia;
  • 1915: Became war correspondent for the Daily News;
  • 1917: Met Evgenia Shelepina, Trotsky’s secretary;
  • 1919: Helped Estonia gain independence;
  • 1922: Commissioned Racundra, his first yacht;
  • 1924: Divorced Ivy, married Evgenia and returned to Britain;
  • 1924: Settled in the Lake District whilst continuing to work for the Manchester Guardian;
  • 1929: Resigned from the Guardian to write Swallows and Amazons;
  • 1930: Swallows and Amazons published;
  • 1937: Received first Carnegie Medal, for Pigeon Post;
  • 1947: Great Northern?, his last novel published;
  • 1948: Received honorary MA from Durham;
  • 1952: Received honorary doctorate from Leeds;
  • 1953: Made CBE;
  • 1967: Died (3 June).

Go to our detailed timeline.

Introductory bibliography

1904 – 13

  • The ABC of Physical Culture (1904)
  • The Souls of the Streets (1904)
  • The Stone Lady (1905)
  • The Child’s Book of the Seasons (1906)
  • Pond and Stream (1906)
  • The Things in our Garden (1906)
  • Highways and Byways in Fairyland (1906)
  • Bohemia in London (1907)
  • A History of Story-telling (1909)
  • The Little People of the Wood (1909)
  • Edgar Allan Poe (1910)
  • The Imp and the Elf and the Ogre (1910)
  • The Hoofmarks of the Fawn (1911)
  • Oscar Wilde: a Critical Study (1912)
  • Portraits and Speculations (1913)

Go to our 1904 – 13 bibliography.

1915 – 1929

Arthur Ransome, 1922

  • The Elixir of Life (1915)
  • Old Peter’s Russian Tales (1916) (Arthur Ransome Trust)
  • On Behalf of Russia (1918) (Faber Finds)
  • Six Weeks in Russia in 1919 (1919) (Faber Finds)
  • Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp (1919)
  • The Soldier and Death (1920) (Arthur Ransome Trust)
  • The Crisis in Russia (1921) (Faber Finds)
  • Racundra’s First Cruise (1923) (Fernhurst)
  • The Chinese Puzzle (1927)
  • Rod and Line (1929) (Medlar Press)

Go to our 1915 – 29 bibliography.

1930 – 1947

A good book is not merely a thing that keeps a child (or a grown-up person) amused while reading. It is an experience he shares, something that he himself lives…
Undated letter to Mr Marriott

  • Swallows and Amazons (1930) (Penguin Random House)
  • Swallowdale (1931) (Penguin Random House)
  • Peter Duck (1932) (Penguin Random House)
  • Winter Holiday (1933) (Penguin Random House)
  • Coot Club (1934) (Penguin Random House)
  • Pigeon Post (1936) (Penguin Random House)
  • We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea (1937) (Penguin Random House)
  • Secret Water (1939) (Penguin Random House)
  • The Big Six (1940) (Penguin Random House)
  • Missee Lee (1941) (Penguin Random House)
  • The Picts and the Martyrs (1943) (Penguin Random House)
  • Great Northern? (1947) (Penguin Random House)

Go to our 1930 – 47 bibliography.

1955 –

Arthur Ransome, 1950s

  • Fishing (1955)
  • Mainly About Fishing (1959)
  • The Autobiography of Arthur Ransome (1976) (Arthur Ransome Trust)
  • The War of the Birds and the Beasts and Other Russian Tales (1984) (Arthur Ransome Trust)
  • Coots in the North and Other Stories (1988)
  • The Blue Treacle (1993)
  • Illustrating Arthur Ransome (1994)
  • Arthur Ransome on Fishing (1994)
  • Ransome at Sea (1995)
  • The Swallows and the Amazons (1997)
  • Signalling from Mars (1997)
  • Aladdin and His Lamp (1997)
  • Ransome the Artist (1998)
  • Ransome on Blue Water Sailing (1999)
  • Racundra’s Third Cruise (2002) (Fernhurst)
  • Before a Peak in Darien (2008)
  • Fair Cops and Glowworms (2011)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson (2011) (Boydell & Brewer)

Go to our 1955 – bibliography.

Arthur Ransome Literary Estate

‘This is the Black Spot. You are deposed from being an uncle or anything decent.’
Swallows and Amazons

Arthur Ransome died on 3rd June, 1967. His works are therefore still in copyright in the UK and many other countries. They are owned and administered by the Arthur Ransome Literary Estate. We are grateful to the Estate for its support for ART. The Estate is administered by executors in accordance with Arthur Ransome’s instructions. The executors are Christina Hardyment, Geraint Lewis and Paul Flint.

Go to more detailed information about the Literary Estate and copyright.

Read on…