John Alexander Hammerton

Birth: 1871


Sir John Alexander Hammerton (1871-1949) is described by the Dictionary of National Biography as "the most successful creator of large-scale works of reference that Britain has known". He was born on 27 February 1871 in Alexandria, Scotland.

Hammerton's first posts in journalism included a period in Nottingham, where he first met his lifelong collaborator and friend, Arthur Mee. In 1905, Hammerton joined Alfred Harmsworth's Amalgamated Press. He and Mee produced the Harmsworth Self-Educator. Hammerton contributed to the first edition of Mee's Children's Encyclopaedia, which was a fortnightly series from 1908 till 1910 before being published in eight large volumes. Hammerton's contribution consisted of compiling articles on 'Famous Books' and 'Poetry'. Mee died in 1943. in 1946, Hammerton wrote a biography of him entitled Child of Wonder.

Hammerton's greatest achievement was Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia. It was published first as a fortnightly series from 1920 to 1922. The Encyclopaedia sold 12 million copies throughout the English-speaking world.

The Great War

From 1914 to 1919, Hammerton was joint editor with Herbert Wrigley Wilson of the periodical The Great War: The Standard History of the All-Europe Conflict, published by the Amalgamated Press. The first volume of The Great War concentrated on justifying Britain's entry into World War I, and with encouraging the British people to sign up and fight.

In its entirety, The Great War ran to 13 volumes. In 1933, Hammerton's A Popular History of the Great War (in six volumes) was published. Hammerton later edited a biography of J. M. Barrie and studies of Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson. He also wrote Other Things than War: Musings and Memories (1943), and an autobiography, Books and Myself (1944).

Hammerton died on 12 May 1949 in London.


Hadaway, Bridget. "Oxford DNB article Hammerton, Sir John Alexander". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.

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