Raymond Henry Williams (31 August 1921 – 26 January 1988) was a Welsh academic, novelist and critic. He was an influential figure within the New Left and in wider culture. His writings on politics, culture, the mass media and literature are a significant contribution to the Marxist critique of culture and the arts. Some 750,000 copies of his books have sold in UK editions alone and there are many translations available. His work laid the foundations for the field of cultural studies and the cultural materialist approach.

Born in Llanfihangel Crucorney, near Abergavenny, Wales, Williams was the son of a railway worker in a village where all of the railwaymen voted Labour while the local small farmers mostly voted Liberal. It was not a Welsh-speaking area: he described it as "Anglicised in the 1840s". There was, nevertheless, a strong Welsh identity. "There is the joke that someone says his family came over with the Normans and we reply: 'Are you liking it here?'".

He attended King Henry VIII Grammar School in Abergavenny. His teenage years were overshadowed by the rise of Nazism and the threat of war. He was 14 when the Spanish Civil War broke out, and was very conscious of what was happening through his membership of the local Left Book Club. He also mentions the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China, originally published in Britain by the Left Book Club.

At this time, he was a supporter of the League of Nations, attending a League-organised youth conference in Geneva in 1937. On the way back, his group visited Paris and he went to the Soviet pavilion at the International Exhibition. There he bought a copy of The Communist Manifesto and read Karl Marx for the first time.

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Raymond Williams Poems

Raymond Williams Quotes

Most works of art are effectively treated as commodities and most artists, even when they justly claim quite other intentions, are effectively treated as a category of independent craftsmen or skilled workers producing a certain kind of marginal commodity.
Raymond Williams (1921-1988), British novelist, critic. "Art," Keywords (1976).
What breaks capitalism, all that will ever break capitalism, is capitalists. The faster they run the more strain on their heart.
Raymond Williams (1921-1988), British novelist, critic. Monkey Pitter, in Loyalties, pt. 3, ch. 2 (1985). This was Williams's last novel.
It wasn't idealism that made me, from the beginning, want a more secure and rational society. It was an intellectual judgement, to which I still hold. When I was young its name was socialism. We can be deflected by names. But the need was absolute, and is still absolute.
Raymond Williams (1921-1988), British novelist, critic. Norman Braose, in Loyalties, pt. 5, ch. 5 (1985). This was Williams' last novel.

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