© 2009 John Orbell
Welcome to this new website featuring historical essays in which the main protagonists are particular members of the Cobden family. The most well-known Cobden was the nineteenth-century liberal politician Richard Cobden (1804-65) who was associated with free trade, peace and reform. Much research on his place in British and international history has been published since his death but especially recently the 2006 publication Rethinking Nineteenth-Century Liberalism, edited by Anthony Howe and Simon Morgan, which commemorated the bicentenary of his birth, and the publication of volume one of Richard Cobden’s letters edited by Anthony Howe in 2007; any attempt to contribute to such detailed scholarship here would at present be superfluous. John Morley wrote in the nineteenth century that Richard Cobden’s ancestors ‘were yeomen of the soil’ and that ‘the name can be traced in the annals of the district as far back as the fourteenth century’ (Morley, The Life of Richard Cobden, volume 1, Macmillan, 1908, p. 2), two facts that are explored in the initial and introductory essay.
The aim here is to present lesser-known and also totally unknown figures in a variety of perspectives and contexts, individuals in whose lives important contemporary issues in British history are reflected and which contribute in some way to the development of local and regional history. The process to attempt and hopefully achieve this involves the study of primary and secondary sources that refer (sometimes briefly) to the Cobden name; the accumulation of such material allows the emergence of a hazy picture of the whereabouts and activities of certain Cobden individuals that, against the background of British history, can be enhanced and be given greater meaning.
This is an ongoing study and the website will contain progressively more results of research in the form of referenced essays and transcribed primary sources.
The navigation (contents) panel on the left permits direct access to the different essays and other documents.