Swallows & Amazons changes lives
Arthur Ransome’s Swallows & Amazons novels have inspired generations of readers. Some are well-known. They ignited Dame Ellen MacArthur’s desire to sail and were an invitation to David Bellamy to champion conservation. For Norman Willis they were a source of sanity, whilst negotiating as General Secretary of the TUC. For Maurice Rowlandson they inspired a lifetime organising youth sailing cruises on the Norfolk Broads. By the turn of the last century over 30,000 had taken part and the cruises continue to this day.
They are just a handful of the many thousands for whom Swallows & Amazons have been enduring friends.
Together, Arthur Ransome’s novels “changed British children’s literature, affected a whole generation’s view of holidays, helped to create the national image of the English Lake District, and added Arthur Ransome’s name to the select list of classic British children’s authors,” (Professor Peter Hunt, Approaching Arthur Ransome, 1992).
That was a major achievement. But there was far more to Arthur Ransome’s life and works.
In total he published over 40 books, contributed to many more and wrote extensively for newspapers and magazines. His subjects reflected his varied life, which included being an author, illustrator, story teller, critic, essayist, editor, war reporter, political journalist, amateur diplomat, bohemian, romantic, sailor and angler. Perhaps it is no surprise he wrote “I have lived not one life but snatches from a dozen different lives”.
A legacy for the 21st century…
Arthur Ransome was born in the 19th Century. His Swallows & Amazons series is set firmly in the 20th – in a world without air travel, the internet, or even the dumbest mobile phone.
Yet they remain as relevant today as they were when first written; arguably more so. His insights into childhood imagination and play are timeless. So are his attitudes to adventure, which provide a refreshing challenge to excessive risk-aversion. Whilst his characters may be children of a society whose structures and attitudes have largely vanished, their emotions, aspirations and failings remain real. They are explorers, sailors, naturalists, writers and bird-protectors who rely on common sense, co-operation, and learning, sharing and respecting skills to combat adversity and fulfil their goals. They have surprisingly modern democratic and meritocratic attitudes.
As Peter Hunt observed: “in a sense the liberal Ransome presents not so much an ideal world in which children can play, but a world of ideals to which his readers can aspire: a world of equality and respect.”
…and a home in which to thrive
The Arthur Ransome Trust (ART) exists to help people discover the fiction and reality of Arthur Ransome’s fascinating life. We’re working towards a dedicated Arthur Ransome Centre in the Lake District, Ransome’s spiritual home. We also have a range of related projects. Ransome’s novels touched on many subjects – not only sailing, camping and fishing, but also geology, astronomy, conservation, exploration, social history, folklore, farming, bird protection and much more. They have shaped lives and careers. We believe that a Ransome centre will make a big difference by inspiring generations to come.
Continue exploring via:
- Discover Ransome: for information about his life, works and times;
- Explore ART: to find out what’s happening in and around ART;
- Join In: grab your chance and help ART make a difference;
- Shop: for ART Publications, the Swallows & Amazons novels and more;
- News: for all the latest Arthur Ransome, Swallows & Amazons and ART developments.
“Mine has not been a life of consistent effort towards a single end. It seems to me that I have been like a shuttlecock bandied to and fro by lunatics. I seem to have lived not one life but snatches from a dozen different lives…”
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