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on 24 December 2012
John Seymour's often called 'the father of British self-sufficiency' suppose that makes Cobbett the great-great-grandad.

Remarkable just how relevant his words of wisdom are today nearly 200 years later.
Although what would he think of Britain 2012!

Tea fans be warned though....he really had it in for the humble brew.

'I view the tea drinking as a destroyer of health, an enfeebler of the frame, and engenderer of effeminacy and laziness, a debaucher of youth, and a maker of misery for old age.'

'The tea drinking fills the public-houses, makes the frequenting of it habitual, corrupts boys as soon they are able to move from home, and does little less for the girls, to whom the gossip of the tea-table is no bad preparatory school for the brothel.'

Mind you he also apparently said,

"A wife, a steak, and a walnut tree The more you beat 'em, better they be."
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on 27 August 2004
If you're only looking for clear instructions on how to run your cottage economy, or anything that falls under the subtitle "Brewing of Beer, Making of Bread, Keeping of Cows, Pigs, Bees, Ewes, Goats, Poultry and Rabbits" then steer clear of this book.

If you're interested in those instructions but also in the reasons behind why you or others might want to do that kind of thing then I can't recommend it enough. It's remarkably sharply written, once you get used to the slightly old-fashioned style. It provides plenty of support for why you do what you do. You'll quite probably find yourself agreeing loudly with some of Cobbett's opinions. And you'll be surprised, after all, at just how relevant much of it still is. It's still not a practical guide - although it does have instructions for making, growing and farming you'd be much better off with John Seymour for a starting point - but it's a fine read and would make a great present for a frustrated smallholder.
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on 9 January 2001
Slow to start, but then gets going with the lowdown on keepings cows (on quarter of an acre!), pigs and geese. Best on livestock and brewing beer, and truly inspiring on why people should smallhold and go self-sufficient - as a way of building a better, more natural life for one's family. The family that smalholds together, stays together! Incredibly relevent, despite being 180 years old. Cobbett is a very entertaining writer too.
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on 30 March 2006
Absolute classic of the self sufficiency movement. Certain other reviewers have picked on the use of the bushel and other traditional measures as being a reason to condemn the book. I feel that alongside Seymour's NCGTSS this is the manifesto of the self-reliant lifestyle. Read the two books together and you will see the big picture of why we should be self reliant. Thear et all provide the details.
However certain features are perhaps the product of the time. The advice regarding tea and beer would in general today lead to heart attack/obesity! The advice regarding potatoes also is clearly written in the style of the times.
Apart from this,however, a definite must buy for anyone who wishes to know the main ideology behind self sufficiency in small spaces.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 February 2013
"You must read this" my friend urged, "It's very much your sort of thing". So I took it on holiday with me, and wished at first I hadn't. I expected an interesting early 19th century guide for the rural peasant. What I got was a rant, 2 parts polemic to one part advice. It was, to say the least, hard to "get into".

With nothing else to read, I persevered. I skipped, and dipped into it at random. At some point, the text seduced me. No-one now will follow Cobbett's tediously precise instructions on how to keep a cow on a quarter of an acre by mathematically exact succession planting of cabbages; not least because a gazillion EU regulations impede it. Nor will most of us brew our own beer by the gallon and forswear the inquities of tea. But Cobbett is such a rumbustious, larger than life character that I began to look forward to the next rant with glee. When he got onto narrow-minded religious critics of his work and really let rip with a tirade of ironic and marvelously pointed abuse, I found myself helpless with laughter and 100% on his side.

Cobbett published a magazine (among other things), and much of the text of this book is extracted from the periodical. Thus we see a whole story unfold, as he acknowledges correspondence or tells us the outcome of something he'd expatiated on previously. It all starts to come to life, and we warm to the curmudgeonly, combative personality so evident in these pages. Cobbett was against many things which we now take for granted; he wanted to turn the clock back to before the Industrial Revolution and the Enclosures. He was a champion of of independence and separatism at a time when other political thinkers were espousing co-operation and organisation. His aims were doomed to failure, but what a magnificent failure! In one thing he did succeed; the establishment of a home-grown straw hat industry. This seems to have been acheived by enormous energy and effort on his part, and the unfolding episodic story of it is one of the most fascinating parts of the book.

As a manual of self-sufficiency this book is pretty hopeless. It is written with a good deal more verve than literary sophistication and there are long passages which are tedious in the extreme. You could not say it gives us an insight into the spirit of the age, because Cobbett was a one-off, a Canute trying to turn back the tide. But it is well worth persevering with and has a lot to offer the openminded reader.

Those who find Cobbett's Luddite approach appealing may well also be drawn to William Morris's News from Nowhere, or, an Epoch of Rest : being some chapters from a utopian romance
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 February 2013
"You must read this" my friend urged, "It's very much your sort of thing". So I took it on holiday with me, and wished at first I hadn't. I expected an interesting early 19th century guide for the rural peasant. What I got was a rant, 2 parts polemic to one part advice. It was, to say the least, hard to "get into".

With nothing else to read, I persevered. I skipped, and dipped into it at random. At some point, the text seduced me. No-one now will follow Cobbett's tediously precise instructions on how to keep a cow on a quarter of an acre by mathematically exact succession planting of cabbages; not least because a gazillion EU regulations impede it. Nor will most of us brew our own beer by the gallon and forswear the inquities of tea. But Cobbett is such a rumbustious, larger than life character that I began to look forward to the next rant with glee. When he got onto greedy Methodist preachers and narrow-minded politicians and really let rip with a tirade of ironic and marvelously pointed abuse, I found myself helpless with laughter and 100% on his side.

Cobbett published "Cottage Economy" first as a series of pamphlets. Thus we see a whole story unfold, as he acknowledges correspondence or tells us the outcome of something he'd expatiated on previously. It all starts to come to life, and we warm to the curmudgeonly, combative personality so evident in these pages. Cobbett was against many things which we now take for granted; he wanted to turn the clock back to before the Industrial Revolution and the Enclosures. He was a champion of of independence and separatism at a time when other political thinkers were espousing co-operation and organisation. His aims were doomed to failure, but what a magnificent failure! In one thing he did succeed; the establishment of a home-grown straw hat industry. This seems to have been acheived by enormous energy and effort on his part, and the unfolding episodic story of it is one of the most fascinating parts of the book.

As a manual of self-sufficiency this book is pretty hopeless. It is written with a good deal more verve than literary sophistication and there are long passages which are tedious in the extreme. You could not say it gives us an insight into the spirit of the age, because Cobbett was a one-off, a Canute trying to turn back the tide. But it is well worth persevering with and has a lot to offer the openminded reader.

Those who find Cobbett's Luddite approach appealing may well also be drawn to William Morris's News from Nowhere: Or, an Epoch of Rest. Being Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance (Oxford World's Classics)
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on 10 July 2008
William Cobbett is the godfather of self sufficiency and this book is absolutely fascinating. Written in the same style that the original articles were printed embraces an ambience of going back to a time when we were a nation of farmers.

Taking brewing beer as an example you might think the craft has come a long way since the 1800s but actually the basic procedures are identical now as they were then.

Think of this as a history book, bring to us the day to day, nitty gritty of a self sufficient life on a farm in the early 1800s.
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on 25 January 2012
Cobbett was a man both of and ahead of his time. The book covers many things that are still of use today as well as giving an insight into the life of a cottager at the time. Some of his views are quite amusing, especially those on tea.
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on 23 January 2015
I have to agree with @Peasant: Not reading this book, but rather listening to the podcast, read out by "Phillippa" word by word, I oftentimes find myself bored or overwhelmed by ancient (and imperial!) measurements all of which I would need to look up to make immediate sense. Cobbett's rants and very strong views, however (e.g. women's position in society/household, tea, the "wretched potato", malt tax etc), are of a class of its own and make the podcast worth listening to. Where the book lacks is actual practical advice, e.g bread making is mostly a rant - the recipe for making bread is one small paragraph! I don't think I'll buy this, but by all means listen to a few episodes and make up your own mind.
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on 26 April 2012
brilliant present for my dad.He loves things like this and really enjoyed reading it.Anything like this amazes him as he likes to see how others live their lifes
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