Just William: ‘the most popular boy in fiction’

Between 1920 and her death in 1969, Richmal Crompton published almost forty collections of stories featuring her anarchic schoolboy hero, William Brown. William enjoyed massive success: he was the Harry Potter of his day. In this essay, I try to account for the popularity of the William books, and the gendered aspects of their appeal. I look at the political messages they contained, how William adapted to the changing environment of the 1950s and 1960s, and how the books have been translated across different media.

You can download the whole essay by clicking here, or if you want to read the illustrated version, click on the subheadings below to read the different sections:

  1. The appeal of William
  2. Boys will be boys… and children will be children?
  3. William the Conservative?
  4. William meets modernity
  5. William the Brand
  6. Sources and references