Thomas Spence (1750–1814) was an English radical thinker renowned for his ‘Plan’, a proposal to abolish private ownership of land and replace state institutions with a decentralised parochial organisation. Born in Newcastle, he moved to London in 1787, where he kept a bookstall in High Holborn. Along with other members of the London Corresponding Society, he was sentenced to seven months in Newgate Gaol on charges of high treason in 1794, and was imprisoned again for a year in 1801 for seditious libel.
A new book by Dr Matilde Cazzola sets out to demonstrate that Spence was a deeply original, thoroughly modern thinker, who translated his themes into a popular language addressing the multitude and publicised his Plan through chapbooks, tokens, and songs. It aims to provide a history of Spence’s political thought ‘from below’ to decode the subtle complexity of his Plan. It also shows that the Plan featured an excoriating critique of colonialism and slavery as well as a project of global emancipation.
Dr Cazzola is a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory in Frankfurt, Germany. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Bologna in 2019.
The Political Thought of Thomas Spence: Beyond Poverty and Empire is published by Routledge. Members and friends of the Society for the Study of Labour History are invited to join the online launch event on Thursday 16 December, from 6pm to 7pm GMT. Register here.