Richard Cobden, educationist, economist and statesman
The aim of the thesis is to show that Richard Cobden (1804-1865) deserves to be given a significant place in the history of political, economic and social thought and also full credit for a range of statesmanship which went far beyond his well known part in the repeal of the Corn Laws and the Anglo-French Commercial Treaty of 1860. Historians have not sufficiently recognised that Cobden sought to make fundamental changes in British society and that he tried to initiate them by piecemeal constitutional methods. He also believed that the British example would have a powerful influence on other countries and thus contribute to a new world order. Cobden had a coherent, although unsystematised, philosophy, based on certain major assumptions. They were, firstly, that social progress depends on the interaction of economic, moral and religious and educational factors; secondly that progress towards a real political democracy depends on progress in the former areas. A special problem in explaining Cobden's philosophy is the fact that the ideas of two important thinkers with whom he was associated, George Combe (1788-1858), phrenologist (psychologist) and Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850), economist, have been belittled and neglected since Cobden's death. Therefore, the analysis of Cobden's thought necessitated an effort to "rehabilitate't these two thinkers. Cobden's efforts to transform British politics and society were only partially successful in Britain's adoption of free trade, a policy not properly understood by most statesmen and commercial men. His work for common schools, international schools, lyceums and educative popular newspapers was a failure and soon forgotten; his efforts to reform British foreign policy and implement arms control also failed. After his death, his followers failed to develop satisfactorily his ideas for application to social and international problems. These ideas still have considerable potential.