Born in 1884 in Leeds, Arthur Mitchell Ransome was an English author and journalist, best known for writing the Swallows and Amazons series for children. Ransome received a formal education first in Windemere and then at Rugby School (where he lived in Lewis Carroll's study room) but he hated it, due to poor vision, lack of athletic skills, and not so great grades. Later he attended Yorkshire College, his father's college and studied chemistry. His father died in 1897 and had a lasting impact on Ransome. Eventually Ransome abandoned college and began working as a writing, getting a few low-paying jobs at publishing companies and magazines.
Ransome's first book, Bohemia in London came out in 1907. Two years later Ransome married Ivy Constance Walked and they had one daughter, Tabitha. It was not a happy marriage though and they eventually divorced in 1924. At one point Ransome became embroiled with Oscar Wilde as he wrote about Wilde and Douglas' affair together. It was a
ll rather scandalous, but Ransome won in the end.
During World War I, Ransome worked as a war correspondent mostly covering Russia where he had done some studying for a book on folk tales. Ransome wrote down these experiences in another book published right after the war ended. He remarried Evgenia who he met in Russia and moved her o England where he continued to write on foreign affairs.
Once Ransome had settled down, he decided to write a children's book, Swallows and Amazons in 1929. He immediately earned the reputation of being one of England's best children's writers. Apparently, he based the Walker children (the "Swallows") in the book in part on the Altounyan family who he had a long-standing friendship with. He later denied
the connection, claiming that he only used their names, not their personalities. It upset him that people did not regard the characters as original creations.
Ransome's writing is noted for his detailed descriptions of activities. Although he used many actual places, he invented his own geography. His interest in sailing also became part of his books. A few of the books in the series have a more fantastical feeling about them. The experiences Ransome had traveling around the world can be found in many of his books, from the Amazon to China to Russia.
Swallows ans Amazons was so popular that it inspired a number of other authors to write in a similar vein: mostnotably two schoolchildren, Pamela Whitlock and Katharine Hull who wrote The Far-Distant Oxys, and adventure story set on Exmoor. Whitlock sent her manuscript to Ransome in 1937 who then convinced his publisher to print it.