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Revolution by a Revolutionary
on 26 August 2008
We think that recent decades have seen the greatest possible changes that mankind could possibly go through. We're wrong.
William Cobbett lived through an era that was breathtaking in the change that it experienced. The agrarian economy that had sustained the country for centuries was being pushed aside by the industrial revolution, indeed, agriculture was about to experience deep decline. In politics, the loss of the American colonies - the first step in the end of the Empire - still haunted the country. The age of patrician rule was about to yield - if no more than that - with the Reform Act of 1832.
Cobbett exemplifies the contradictions of this age - passionately opposed to 'modern' economics, yet deriding of the 'old ways', patrician yet a powerful advocate of the enhanced franchise.
Cobbett gives us a record of an important turning point in our country's history and sheds light upon the causes and impacts of this period of change. He offers us lessons that may be of equal relevance in our own period of immense change.
Apart from that, Cobbett paints us a picture of a landscape that is, on the one hand, so very familiar to us, but on the other, totally alien.
However, the editorial contribution of this version of his work is poor. That anyone in the early 21st century should understand the intricacies of early 19th century politics is asking too much, and the vital explanation and understanding that the average paperback reader needs is entirely missing.