John Papworth

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John Papworth (born 1921) is an English clergyman, writer and activist against big public and private organizations and for small communities and enterprises.

Life and work

Born in London, Papworth was reared in an orphanage in Essex. After leaving it, he worked as a baker's boy and then a school chef until he joined the British Home Guard during World War II; he served seven years as a military cook.[1]

After the war Papworth trained to be a vicar and became an ordained minister of the Church of England, serving in a number of parishes. In 1997 his comments about the morality of stealing from giant retail corporations resulted in international media attention and he was debarred from preaching.[1][2] Then Home Secretary Michael Howard called the comments "Shameful." Papworth said he was not encouraging theft, only saying he could comprehend it.[2]

During the war he joined the Communist Party but objected to its authoritarianism and was kicked out. He later joined the Labour Party and was a candidate for Salisbury in 1955. He also found that party too authoritarian and developed an opposition to large state and mass organizations and a preference for the small community.[1] He came to believe democracies dominated by remote party organizations could not meet peoples needs or stop war.[3]

In 1966 he got together with like-minded thinkers E.F. Schumacher, Leopold Kohr and Sir Herbert Read and founded and edited Resurgence magazine.[1][4] After leaving Resurgence he founded "Fourth World Review" magazine which promoted "small nations, governed by small communities".[1] In 1968 the publication sponsored several "First Assembly of the Fourth World" of people from around the world which envisioned creating a new society where of small communities, enterprises and self-government in industry, public utilities, universities, etc.[3] Papworth also ran for British Parliament as a "Fourth World" candidate.[5] In later years he was a consultant to Greenpeace and an associate editor for The Ecologist magazine.[citation needed]

In the 1960s, he was imprisoned along with Bertrand Russell for anti-nuclear protests, and also was placed in Albany, Georgia mail for Civil Rights activities.[citation needed] Papworth has been active as a peace activist and believes small societies are less likely to sacrifice their citizens in nuclear war, or afford to pay for such weapons.[5] In the 1970s and early 1980s, Papworth wrote regularly for the pacifist newspaper Peace News.[6]

For nine years during the 1970s he was a rural development adviser to then President of Zambia, Dr Kenneth Kaunda.[5] He also founded the Village Industry Service in Zambia.[citation needed]

Papworth was the subject of two BBC documentaries entitled "No Man is an Island" and "Turbulent Priest". He also has lectured around the world.[citation needed]

In 2001 Papworth refused to return his census form stating the government had no right to such information. He was fined £120.[7]

A longtime resident of London,[1] he later moved to Purton, Wiltshire.[7] He edits a village magazine called "Purton Today"[8] and is Parish Councillor for Purton.[9] Papworth is a widower with three children.[citation needed]


  • The Economics of Humanism
  • New politics, Garlandfold, 1982; Small is powerful: the future as if people really mattered, Praeger, 1995
  • Shut Up and Listen: A New Handbook for Revolutionaries, self-published, 1997
  • Village democracy, Volume 25 of Societas (Imprint Academic), Societas Series, Ingram Publishing Services, 2006, ISBN 184540064X
  • Co-editor with Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, A pair of cranks: a compendium of essays by two of the most influential and challenging authors of the 20th century, (Selected essays by E.F. Schumacher and Leopold Kohr), New European, 2003, ISBN 1872410189.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Case Study: 85, and still campaigning for local democracy Paul Kingsnorth, The Ecologist, 1 September 2006. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cleric contorts theft amendment, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - 17 Mar 1997.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Cyril Dunn, In this world of Bigness a Move to Remain Small, St. Petersburg Times - 18 Apr 1968 .
  4. E .F. Schumacher: His Life and Thought by Barbara Wood. Harper & Row, 1984. ISBN 0-06-015356-3, (p.348-349).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Fighting for the Fourth World, New Internationalist, Issue 97, March 1981.
  6. Articles of Peace : Celebrating Fifty Years of "Peace News", edited by Gail Chester and Andrew Rigby, Prism Press, 1986. ISBN 0-907061-90-7 (p.22).
  7. 7.0 7.1 Vicar fined for census protest, BBC, 13 September 2001.
  8. "Purton Today", Winter 2013.
  9. Purton Magazine, June 2006.

External links