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George Orwell was an English writer who addressed many social injustices and advocated for democratic socialism as a novelist, poet, literary critic, and polemic journalist. Orwell’s most famous works are Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) and Animal Farm. His ideas still continue to shape modern culture and make his works as relevant today as when he first published them.

Young Life and Education

George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on June 25, 1903, in Motihari, now Bihar, in British-ruled, colonial India.[1] His grew up with his parents, Richard Walmesley Blair and Ida Mabel Limouzin, and two sisters, Marjorie and Avril.[2] His father worked for the Indian Civil Service in the Opium Department and his mother came from Moulmein, Burma. In 1904, his mother moved Orwell and his sisters to Oxfordshire while his father worked outside the home until 1912.[3]

Orwell entered into St. Cyprian’s School in East Sussex in September 1911 with the help of his mother’s brother and reduced school fees. He attended the boarding school until December 1916, spent one semester at Wellington College, and then began studying as a King’s Scholar at Eton College in May 1917. His grades fell as he focused on producing several different publications and he lost his scholarship. Orwell decided to join the Imperial Police since his parents could not afford to pay for further university studies.[4]

Imperial Police Service

George Orwell witnessed the English oppression of Burmese and ethnic minorities during his service which he included in 1984.

George Orwell left on the SS Hertfordshire in October 1922. He first stationed in Maymyo, but moved to Myaungmya and then Twante in the Irrawaddy Delta in 1924. He learned much of responsibility while providing security for about 200,000 people. They promoted him at the end of 1924 to Assistant District Superintendent and he moved to Syriam, outside Rangoon. He moved again to Insein in September 1925. Then to his grandmother’s city of Moulmein in April 1926.

Orwell contracted dengue fever in 1927 after a new assignment in Katha and returned to England in July. While on vacation with his family in September 1927 he decided to pursue a career as a writer rather than returning to the Imperial Police.[5]

Early Literary Career

Eric Blair adopted his pen name George Orwell before publishing 1984. He moved to London in 1927 to begin his writing career. He moved to Paris in 1928 where he worked as a journalist and started writing novels. Orwell wrote several articles and essays before returning to England and his parent’s house in December 1929. He contributed many stories to the magazine Adelphi in late 1931, where he explored the poverty he witnessed throughout his travels.

Orwell published his first big work, Down and Out in Paris in London, on January 9, 1933, which explored his times in the poor areas of the big cities.

Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War against General Francisco Franco and was badly injured when a bullet struck his throat, barely missing his main artery. His wife cared for him and the couple escaped to England in June 1937 before being convicted of treason by a court in Valencia on July 13.[6]

Orwell’s Famous Novels

Animal Farm

Orwell began one of his most famous works, Animal Farm, during the World War II. He published many articles during the same time in various magazines, including Time and Time, New Adelphi, and The Listener. He started working for the left-leaning Tribune on March 29, 1940, and Horizon the same year, which gained him positive recognition in big literary circles. He formed professional relationships with famous authors such as Dylan Thomas, E. M. Forrester, Ahmed Ali, William Empson, Mulk Raj Anand, and T. S. Elliot.

Orwell founded Voice, a literary show broadcasted in India, through the BBC. His mother died in March of 1943 around the same time he began Animal Farm. Orwell stopped his work at the BBC to focus on writing, but continued to write for Tribune, more than 80 book reviews, and began a personal column on December 3, 1943. He finished Animal Farm in April 1944, but finding a publisher proved difficult. Secker and Warburg finally published Animal Farm: A Fairy Story in the United Kingdom on August 17, 1945, and in the United States on August 26, 1946.[7]

Nineteen Eighty-Four

George Orwell continued working as a journalist while he began writing his most famous work, Nineteen Eighty-Four, or 1984. In February 1946, he suffered from bleeding in his lungs, but did not address the illness. He wrote most of 1984 on the Isle of Jura in a house arranged by Orwell’s old friend, David Astor. He moved to the island on May 22, 1946, shortly after his sister, Marjorie’s, death. Orwell returned to London later that year to take a break from 1984 and work as a literary journalist again.[8] He set up a company, George Orwell Productions Limited, to copyright and receive royalties from Animal Farm on September 12, 1947, with the help of Jack Harrison.[9]

Orwell returned to Jura on April 10, 1947.[10] Progress on 1984 was interrupted when George Orwell was diagnosed with tuberculosis that December. He returned to Jura in July 1948 and finished 1984 by the end of the year. He rested in a Gloucestershire sanatorium in January 1949 to treat his tuberculosis.[11] Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1984, was published in June 1949 to receive immediate critical acclaim while George Orwell’s health continued to decline.[12]

Marriage, Family, and Death

Orwell married his first wife, Eileen O’Shaughnessy on June 9, 1936.[13]

Orwell’s second wife, Julia,may have been the inspiration for the character Julia in 1984.

The couple adopted a son, Richard Horatio Blair, and moved to Islington in September 1944.

Eileen died on March 29, 1945, while under anesthetic for a hysterectomy. He met his second wife, Sonia Brownell, at Horizon magazine in mid-1949. Orwell entered University College Hospital in London just after their engagement in September 1949. They married on October 13, 1949, in his hospital room surrounded by friends and family. On January 21, 1950, George Orwell died in hospital when an artery burst in his lungs.[14]



Crick, B. R. (1982). George Orwell, A Life. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Shelden, M. (1991). Orwell: The Authorized Biography. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Taylor, D. J. (2003). Orwell. New York: H. Holt.


  1. Oxford DNB. (2004). Eric Blair. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  2. Crick,1982
  3. Taylor, 2003
  4. Taylor, 2003
  5. Shelden, 1991
  6. Taylor, 2003
  7. Orwell, G. (1999). I Have Tried to Tell the Truth: 1943 - 1944. United Kingdom: Martin Secker & Warburg.
  8. Shelden, 1991
  9. Carroll, T. (2004, August 15). A Writer Wronged. The Sunday Times Magazine
  10. Taylor, 2003
  11. Orwell, G. (2002). It Is What I Think (Complete Works). United Kingdom: Martin Secker & Warburg.
  12. Orwell, G. (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. United Kingdom: Martin Secker & Warburg.
  13. Shelden, 1991
  14. Taylor, 2003

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