The Revolutionary Plan of Thomas Spence

Alastair Bonnett tells the little-known but extraordinary ‘rags to rags’ story of a radical maverick of the early 19th century.


June 2005 saw a discovery. Leafing through a battered compilation of eighteenth-century documents held by Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophical Society, David Gardner-Medwin, a retired doctor and amateur local historian chanced upon an intriguing one-penny pamphlet. No author is indicated but the title is striking, Property in Land Every One’s Right, proved in a lecture read at the Philosophical Society in Newcastle, on the 8th of Nov. 1775.


Dr Gardner-Medwin immediately recognized it as the founding statement of Spence’s thought. It is a work republished many times in later editions as ‘The Rights of Man’. But the original had been lost for nearly 200 years.


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