1.1 Early life
1.2 University education
1.3 World War II
1.4 Adult education
1.5 Early publications
1.6 Academic career
1.8 Last years
2.2 Literary and cultural studies
2.3 Short stories
3 See also
5 Further reading
5.1 Book length treatments
5.2 Treatments of books
6 External links
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-speakingarea: 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 CivilWar 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.
In 1937 he was a supporter of the League of Nations, attending a League-organised youth conference in Geneva. 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.
Williams attended Trinity College, Cambridge, where he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain. Along with Eric Hobsbawm, he was given the task of writing a Communist Party pamphletabout the Russo-Finnish War. He says in (Politics and Letters) that they "were given the job as people who could write quickly, from historical materials supplied for us. You were often in there writing about topics you did not know very much about, as a professional with words." At the time, the British government was keen to support Finland in its war against the Soviet Union, while still beingat war with Nazi Germany.
World War II
Williams interrupted his education to serve in World War II. In winter 1940, he enlisted in the British Army, but stayed at Cambridge to take his exams in June 1941, the same month Germany invaded Russia. Joining the military was against the Communist party line at the time. According to Williams, his membership in the Communist Party lapsed withouthim ever formally resigning.
When Williams joined the army, he was assigned to the Royal Corps of Signals, which was the typical assignment for university undergraduates. He received some initial training in military communications, but was then reassigned to artillery and anti-tank weapons. He was viewed as officer material and served as an officer in the Anti-Tank Regiment of the GuardsArmoured Division, 1941–1945, being sent into the early fighting in the Invasion of Normandy after the Normandy Landings (D-Day). In Politics and Letters he writes, "I don't think the intricate chaos of that Normandy fighting has ever been recorded". He commanded a unit of four tanks and mentions losing touch with two of them during fighting against Waffen-SS Panzer forces in the Bocage; he...