How Did Orwell’s 1984 Get Its Name?

1984 manuscript

The Manuscript for 1984

Many of the posts I write result from questions library patrons ask while I am at work. A couple of months ago someone asked how George Orwell’s greatest (and last) novel 1984, or Nineteen Eighty Four got it’s name.

I assumed that it was because the date held some significance for the author, or was chosen because it was a specific point in the future.

The Modern Scholar lectures on The World of George Orwell give this explanation for the book that was originally going to be called The Last Man In Europe.

The majority of the work on the book was done in the year 1948. On behalf of a more concise, evocative title, Orwell and his publisher inverted the last two numbers of that year, changing the title to 1984.

The major consideration was that if the title were to be a date, the date be in the future. Apparently how far or near in the future wasn’t of much concern.

If you are looking for an accessible introduction to George Orwell and his writing I recommend the Modern Scholar lectures.

If you are interested in reading his essays, correspondence, and journalism I recommend:

  • An Age Like This: 1920-1940
  • My Country, Right Or Left: 1940-1943
  • As I Please: 1943-1945
  • In Front of Your Nose: 1945-1950