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William Cobbett

William Cobbett (17631835) was a radical agriculturalist and prolific journalist. He thought that the reform of Parliament and the abolition of the rotten boroughs would help cure the poverty of the farm labourers. Cobbett constantly attacked the borough-mongers, sinecurists and tax-eaters. He opposed the Corn Laws, a tax on imported grain.

Through the many apparent inconsistencies in Cobbett's life, one strand continued to run: an ingrained opposition to authority and a suspicion of novelty. Thus he sometimes appears revolutionary, and sometimes reactionary. His suspicious character became more pronounced towards the end of life life.

Cobbett met John 'Mad Jack' Fuller at a public meeting in Battle, East Sussex[?] in 1822. His most famous book, Rural Rides[?], was published in 1830, an account of his travels on horseback in southern England in the 1820s. Cobbett was elected a Member of Parliament for Oldham in Lancashire in 1832. Macaulay, a fellow member, remarked that his paranoia had developed to the point of insanity.

He was never an original thinker, and would not have claimed to understand economics; but he was a gifted journalist, and provides an alternative view of rural England in the age of an Industrial Revolution with which he was not in sympathy.



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