Cobbett, William

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b. 9 March 1762 Farnham, Surrey, England
d. 17 June 1835 Guildford, Surrey, England
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English political writer and activist; writer on rural affairs, with a particular concern for the conditions of the agricultural worker; a keen experimental farmer who claimed responsibility for the import of Indian maize to Britain.
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The son of a smallholder farmer and self-taught surveyor, William Cobbett was brought up to farm work from an early age. In 1783 he took employment as an attorney's clerk in London, but not finding this to his liking he travelled to Chatham with the intention of joining the Navy. A mistake in "taking the King's shilling" found him in an infantry regiment. After a year's training he was sent out to Nova Scotia and quickly gained the rank of sergeant major. On leaving the Army he brought corruption charges against three officers in his regiment, but did not press with the prosecution. England was not to his taste, and he returned to North America with his wife.
In America Cobbett taught English to the growing French community displaced by the French Revolution. He found American criticism of Britain ill-balanced and in 1796 began to publish a daily newspaper under the title Porcupine's Gazetteer, in which he wrote editorials in defence of Britain. His writings won him little support from the Americans. However, on returning to London in 1800 he was offered, but turned down, the management of a Government newspaper. Instead he began to produce a daily paper called the Porcupine, which was superseded in 1802 by Cobbett's Political Register, this publication continued on a weekly basis until after his death. In 1803 he also began the Parliamentary Debates, which later merged into Hansard, the official report of parliamentary proceedings.
In 1805 Cobbett took a house and 300-acre (120-hectare) farm in Hampshire, from which he continued to write, but at the same time followed the pursuits he most enjoyed. In 1809 his criticism of the punishment given to mutineers in the militia at Ely resulted in his own imprisonment. On his release in 1812 he decided that the only way to remain an independent publisher was to move back to the USA. He bought a farm at Hampstead, Long Island, New York, and published A Year's Residence in America, which contains, amongst other things, an interesting account of a farmer's year.
Returning to Britain in the easier political climate of the 1820s, Cobbett bought a small seed farm in Kensington, then outside London. From there he made a number of journeys around the country, publishing accounts of them in his famous Rural Rides. His experiments and advice on the sowing and cultivation of crops, particularly turnips and swedes, and on forestry, were an important mechanism for the spread of ideas within the UK. He also claimed that he was the first to introduce the acacia and Indian maize to Britain. Much of his writing expresses a concern for the rural poor and he was firmly convinced that only parliamentary reform would achieve the changes needed. His political work and writing led to his election as Member of Parlaiment for Oldham in the 1835 election, which followed the Reform Act of 1832. However, by this time his energy was failing rapidly and he died peacefully at Normandy Farm, near Guildford, at the age of 73.
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Bibliography
Cobbett's Observations on Priestley's Emigration, published in 1794, was the first of his pro-British tracts written in America. On the basis of his stay in that country he wrote A Year's Residence in America. His books on agricultural practice included Woodlands (1825) and Treatise on Cobbett's Corn (1828). Dealing with more social problems he wrote an English Grammar for the use of Apprentices, Plough Boys, Soldiers and Sailors in 1818, and Cottage Economy in 1821.
Further Reading
Albert Pell, 1902, article in Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England 63:1–26 (describes the life and writings of William Cobbett).
James Sambrook, 1973, William Cobbett, London: Routledge (a more detailed study).
AP

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cobbett, William — born March 9, 1763, Farnham, Surrey, Eng. died June 18, 1835, London English journalist. He joined the army and served in Canada (1785–91). He lived in the U.S. (1794–1800), where he launched his career as a journalist, fiercely attacking the… …   Universalium

  • Cobbett,William — Cob·bett (kŏbʹĭt), William. 1763? 1835. British journalist and social reformer noted for his Rural Rides (1830), a collection of essays showing the deterioration of rural life brought about by the Industrial Revolution. * * * …   Universalium

  • Cobbett, William — ► (1763 1835) Escritor y polemista británico. Fundó el semanario Weekly Political Register. * * * (9 mar. 1763, Farnham, Surrey, Inglaterra–18 jun. 1835, Londres). Periodista inglés. Ingresó al ejército y sirvió en Canadá (1785–91). Vivió en… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • COBBETT, WILLIAM —    a political and miscellaneous writer, born at Farnham, Sussex; commenced life as a farm labourer, and then as copying clerk; enlisted, and saw seven years service in Nova Scotia; being discharged, travelled in France and America; on his return …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • COBBETT, William — (1763 1835)    English Political journalist and essayist who used the pseudonym Peter Porcupine. In his early pamphlets he attacked the French REVOLUTION, radicalism, and American DEMOCRACY but from l804 became a champion of radical causes …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Cobbett, William — (1762 1835)    Essayist and political writer, b. at Farnham, Surrey, s. of a small farmer, his youth was spent as a farm labourer, a clerk, and in the army, in which his good conduct and intelligence led to his promotion to the rank of sergeant… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • Cobbett — Cobbett, William …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • William Cobbett — William Cobbett, portrait in oils, possibly by George Cooke, about 1831. National Portrait Gallery, London. Born 9 March 1763(1763 03 09) Farnham, S …   Wikipedia

  • COBBETT (W.) — COBBETT WILLIAM (1762 1835) Journaliste, agitateur radical, paysan, parlementaire anglais, William Cobbett est l’un des plus brillants esprits de son temps et l’un des plus indéfinissables. Né dans une humble famille paysanne, qui lui lègue… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • William Cobbett — [William Cobbett] (1763–1835) an English political journalist who became a leader of the movement towards modern democracy in Britain. He published most of his work in his own magazine Political Register, which also contained summaries of debates …   Useful english dictionary

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