Alias Papa: A Life of Fritz Schumacher
Barbara Wood has written an absorbing account of the life of the influential economist, EF Schumacher, revealing the very human side – mistakes and successes – of her father. Barbara had access to his personal letters, papers and books, before they were donated to the EF Schumacher Society in the US. Despite their close relationship however, she has kept herself and any subjective judgements out of the narrative as much as possible.
As Schumacher’s story unfolds, glimpses of possible formative experiences are revealed. Fritz Schumacher was born in 1911 in the German city of Bonn, into a middle class family. During his wartime childhood, food was scarce and the family’s garden was given over to growing vegetables and keeping livestock, while the children would be sent out to queue for food, shopping bags bulging with paper money.
These years in Germany and those that followed make fascinating reading. The young Schumacher went on to win a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford where he met some of the people who would later influence his career.
From the very beginning Schumacher was opposed to Hitler’s ideas and in 1937 he emigrated to England to avoid living under nazism. In 1940, when the Battle of Britain had begun, police took him to a hastily assembled refugee camp at Prees Heath in Shropshire. His experiences there transformed his perception of society, giving birth to many of his ideas about sustainability and human scale technology, as well as developing his concern for the wellbeing of the individual in society.
The biography continues by exploring how publication of his articles began drawing public interest towards his ideas and how in 1973, his book Small is Beautiful, spoke to a generation searching for a new blueprint for the future and brought him worldwide fame.
Barbara Wood’s biography not only traces Schumacher’s journey to becoming a key figure in the development of the environmental movement and new economic thinking, but gives glimpses into his intimate relationships with family and friends. It shows how his questioning search for the truth caused him to reflect on the events of his life and to embark on a spiritual journey, which was to change him as an economist and as a person.