Cooper, Thomas

Chartist leader, born on 20 March 1805 in Leicester, he grew up in Gainsborough. In his early years he worked as a shoemaker, reading and learning at the same time. In his teens he was a PM, but later became a WM local preacher. The title of his first publication was The Wesleyan Chiefs and other Poems. While running a school in Gainsborough from 1828 to 1836 he preached in the villages round about. However, after an argument with the Lincoln Circuit authorities, he left the Connexion, having denounced his superintendent minister and Jabez Bunting.

In 1836 he moved to London, to begin a literary and journalistc career. This included periods as correspondent on the Lincolnshire, Rutland and Stamford Mercury and later as editor of the Kentish Mercuryand then of the Midland Counties Illuminator. In the early 1840s he became the leader of the Leicester Chartists. His commitment to Chartism was costly. He had heated arguments with Feargus O'Connor and was sentenced to two years in prison in 1843, but then distanced himself from the movement. In 1856, following a period of doubt, he renounced his free thought, was baptized at Friar Lane Baptist chapel in Leicester and became a highly popular Christian lecturer, with as many as 2,000 gathering to hear him speak on the inerrancy of the Bible. His literary output continued. His Cooper's Journal (1849-1850) andPlain Pulpit Talk (1872) both sold well.His autobiography was published in 1872 (reprinted 1971) and he died in Lincoln on 15 July 1892, where the Thomas Cooper Memorial Church was named in his memory.

  • Methodist Recorder, 16 March 1905
  • A.W. Harrison, 'Thomas Cooper and the Chartist Movement', in London Quarterly and Holborn Review, April 1937, pp.183-97
  • G.D.H. Cole, Chartist Portraits (1941)
  • Stephen Roberts, in Dictionary of Labour Biography, IX (Basingstoke, 1993) pp.51-57
  • Timothy Larsen, 'Thomas Cooper and Christian Apologetics in Victorian Britain', in Journal of Victorian Culture, vol.5 (2000), pp.239-59
  • Stephen Roberts, The Chartist Prisoners: the radical lives of Thomas Cooper and Arthur O'Neill (Oxford, 2008)
  • Linda Crust, Thomas Cooper, A Very Giant of a Man (2016)
  • Oxford DNB

Entry written by: NADS
Category: Person
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