1763 Born (9 March) at the Jolly Farmer pub in Farnham, Surrey.

1783 Runs away to London; works as a lawyer’s clerk in Gray’s Inn.

1784 Enlists as a private soldier in the West Norfolk 54th foot.

1785 Sails with regiment to New Brunswick. Remains there until 1791; promoted to Regimental Sergeant-Major and meets his future wife, Anne ‘Nancy’ Reid (1774-1848).

1791 Regiment returns to England; obtains honourable discharge. ( December).

1792 Marries Anne Reid in Woolwich (February). Publishes The Soldier’s Friend and attempts to bring his superiors to court martial for corruption. Flees to France (March) and then, amid revolutionary violence, to America (September).

1793 France declares war on Britain (February). First son born.

1794 Move from Wilmington to the capital, Philadelphia. Second son stillborn. First son, Toney, dies. Publishes Observations on the Emigration of Dr Priestley.

1795 Daughter, Anne, born.

1796 Opens a bookshop in Philadelphia; publishes The Life and Adventures of Peter Porcupine. Makes an enemy of Thomas McKean, Chief Justice of Pennsylvania.

1798 Son, William, born.

1799 Loses libel case brought against him by Dr. Benjamin Rush for attacking Rush’s yellow fever treatment. Moves to New York.

1800 Returns to England. The Porcupine, a daily newspaper, launched (October). Son, John Morgan, born.

1801 Sells his interest in The Porcupine (November).

1802 Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register launched (January) with financial support from William Windham. Peace of Amiens (until May 1803).

1803 Important Considerations for the People of this Kingdom published anonymously on the resumption of war and circulated by the government to every parish in England and Wales. Son, James Paul, born.

1804 Begins publishing Cobbett’s Parliamentary Debates; sold to the printer, Thomas Hansard, in 1812.

1805 Moves to Botley, five miles from Southampton, and purchases a farm of 200 acres. Daughter, Eleanor, born.

1806 Stands, unsuccessfully, as a candidate for parliamentary election at Honiton, Devon.

1807 Daughter, Susan, born.

1809 Duke of York scandal over the sale of army commissions.

1810 Convicted of seditious libel for publishing an article criticizing the flogging of soldiers by German militia. Sentenced to a fine and two years in Newgate.

1812 War of 1812 between Britain and the United States.

1814 Son, Richard Baverstock Brown, born.

1815 Battle of Waterloo. Paper Against Gold published, having been serialized in the Register from Newgate.

1816 ‘The summer without sun’ produces poor harvests and high food prices. Publishes a second edition of the Political Register – the Twopenny Trash – from November; circulation rises to more than 50,000 copies a week.

1817 Escapes to America after the suspension of Habeas Corpus (March); takes a lease on a Long Island farm.

1818 A Grammar of the English Language and A Year’s Residence in the United States of America published.

1819 Peterloo Massacre (16 August). Returns to England with the bones of Thomas Paine.

1819 The Six Acts force Cobbett to raise the cover price of the Register to 6d.

1820 Death of George III. Stands as a parliamentary candidate at Coventry. Files a petition for bankruptcy.
Supports Caroline of Brunswick against George IV.

1821 Moves to a small seed farm at Kensington. Cottage Economy and Cobbett’s Sermons issued in monthly parts.Begins the tours of England that will be collected as Rural Rides (1830).

1824 A History of the Protestant Reformotion in England and Ireland published in monthly parts.

1826 Publishes Cobbett’s Poor Man’s Friend.

1827 Takes a lease on an 80 acre farm at Barn Elms, Surrey.

1829 Roman Catholic Relief Act. Advice to Young Men published in monthly parts.

1830 Death of George IV; accession of William IV. July Revolution in France and Captain Swing riots and rick-burning in England. First Whig government since 1783.

1831 Tried for sedition, accused of inciting the Swing riots, acquitted.

1832 Great Reform Act. Elected to parliament as MP for Oldham. Rents a 160-acre farm at Normandy, near Ash in Surrey. Tours Scotland.

1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. Visits Ireland.Legacy to Labourers published.

1835 Dies (18 June) and is buried in St Andrew’s churchyard, Farnham (27 June). 8,000 people attend funeral, including Daniel O’Connell.

William Cobbett Timeline



In Farnham at Jolly Farmer/ William Cobbett Pub. Early Life: Worked as a farm labourer, and briefly at Farnham Castle.


Took a stagecoach to London

Where he worked as a Clerk.

Joined 54th Regiment of Foot

1785-91 Posted to Canada. -Educated himself; read widely and studied grammar.


Returned to England

Requested and received honourable discharge.


Married Anne ‘Nancy’ Reid

They met in Canada. Seven surviving children.

Attempted to charge senior officers with corruption

Case turned against him; fled to France.

To France: Revolutionary Wars in progress

Continued on to Philadelphia; became a political (and pro-British) writer. -Established reputation as pamphleteer – ‘Peter Porcupine’.


Attacked local Lawyer

Sued for libel; moved to New York.


Returned to England

Initially treated as a hero and offered Government ‘jobs’. -Settled in Botley, Hants where he farmed and wrote.


Published his Weekly Political Register

Until his death in 1835. -Initially a Tory journalist; gradually more radical and anti-establishment. -Wrote with ‘characteristic directness and vigour’.


Criticised use of German troops to suppress mutiny in Ely

Tried and convicted of ‘seditious libel’.


Two years in Newgate Prison

1810-12 Two years in Newgate Prison. Continued to write and publish.


Returned to America fearing a second trial

Returned to America fearing a second trial; farmed on Long Island; -Published (1818) ‘A Grammar of the English Language’.


Return to the UK

Back to UK just after Peterloo ‘Massacre’.


Leading advocate of Political and Agricultural Reform

Supported radicals; but against violence. Continued to demand freedom of speech; and Parliamentary reform. -Against enclosures and the impoverishment of the rural poor.


Began Horseback tours of southern England

Later published as ‘Rural Rides’. Strong supporter of Queen Caroline (against King George IV). Stood for Parliament but defeated. Tried again in 1826 and in March 1832.


Tried again for sedition

for supporting Agricultural Rioters. Not convicted.


Reform Act passed

Reform Act Elected MP for Oldham at subsequent election. -Attacked continuing corruption in Government. -Visited Scotland; and Ireland in 1834. Given Hero’s welcome. -Ineffective in Parliament; resented loss of influence.


Against Poor Law reforms and introduction of workhouses.



Died on farm at Normandy, Surrey. Buried: St Andrews Churchyard, Farnham – 500yds from Birthplace. 8,000 people attended the funeral. (More than the population of Farnham.) He wrote 25m+ words in over 50 works; started Hansard. He influenced, among others, Dickens, the Chartists, Karl Marx.