Ostergaard, Geoffrey.

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Geoffrey Ostergaard joined the University of Birmingham in 1953, after studying at Merton College and Nuffield. He was to work there for the rest of his academic career, as lecturer and later senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science. His D. Phil thesis was on the rise of the public corporation; his early work at Birmingham, with A.H. Halsey, researched co-operatives (“Power in Co-operatives” 1965).

A Rockefeller Foundation grant took him to the University of California in 1958-1959, where he met and studied “latter-day anarchists”, the Beat Generation. He later credited his growing interest in non-violence to the activities of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the mass civil disobedience of the Committee of 100.

This interest led him to the ideas of Gandhi and those who followed him “in accepting non-violence as the central tenet of their philosophy of political action”, rather than just a useful political technique: the Sarvodaya “welfare for all” movement. Dr Ostergaard was particularly sympathetic to the “vanguard” of the movement, revolutionary Gandhism, inspired by Vinoba Bhave. This strand campaigned for bhoodan (voluntary land gifts from landowners to the landless) and gramdan (surrender of individual ownership of land to village communities) as steps leading to the establishment of a new social order in India based on Gandhi’s ideas.

Dr Ostergaard was able to record and analyse the movement when, in 1962-1965, under the Commonwealth Educational Co-operation Scheme, he was seconded to Osmania University, Hyderabad, as Visiting Professor of Political Science. In 1965, he and Dr Melville Currell surveyed leaders of the Sarvodaya movement, publishing their findings in “The Gentle Anarchists” (1971).

He told the later story of the Sarvodaya movement, from 1969 to Vinoba’s death in 1982, in “Nonviolent Revolution in India” (1985). This work, based partly on interviews with activists and on visits to India in 1975 and 1978, covered JP Narayan’s call for “Total revolution”, Mrs Gandhi’s imposition of Emergency in 1975, and how the Sarvodaya movement responded.

Dr Ostergaard also published extensively in academic publications and pacifist and anarchist journals, notably “Peace News” and “Freedom”. He used the pseudonym “Gaston Gerard” for some anarchist writing and commentaries on University matters. He was active in UK peace movements, as a member of the Peace Pledge Union and chair of the Peace News Trustees. From 1965, he was a Trustee of Commonweal Library, the independent library devoted to Gandhian ideas of nonviolence.

From the guide to the The Papers of Geoffrey Ostergaard, 1964-1990, (University of Bradford)

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creatorOf The Papers of Geoffrey Ostergaard, 1964-1990 University of Bradford
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associatedWith Narayan, Jayaprakash., 1902-1979 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Social reformers--India


Birth 1926

Death 1990-03-22




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