Thomas Hodgskin
Born(1787-12-12)12 December 1787
Died21 August 1869(1869-08-21) (aged 81)
Academic career
FieldPolitical economy
InfluencesJohn Locke, Jean-Baptiste Say, Adam Smith

Thomas Hodgskin (12 December 1787 – 21 August 1869) was an English socialist writer on political economy, critic of capitalism and defender of free trade and early trade unions.

His views differ from some of the views later assigned to the word ‘socialism’. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the term socialist included any opponent of capitalism.[1][2][3]


Hodgskin's father. who worked at the British Admiralty dock stores, enrolled him in the navy at the age of 12. Coming into conflict with the naval discipline of the time, Hodgskin was retired by the Navy at the age of 25. Publication of his Essay on Naval Discipline brought Hodgskin to the attention of radicals such as Francis Place. In 1815 Hodgskin travelled in France and Germany, experiences which he later documented in his Travels in the North of Germany.[4]

Entering the University of Edinburgh for study, Hodgskin later came to London and entered the utilitarian circle around Place, Jeremy Bentham and James Mill. With their support, he spent the next five years in a programme of travel and study around Europe which resulted inter alia in a second book, Travels in North Germany (1820). He married Eliza Hegewesch in Edinburgh in 1819.[4]

In 1823, Hodgskin joined forces with Joseph Clinton Robertson in founding the Mechanics Magazine. In the October 1823 edition of the Mechanics Magazine, Hodgskin and Francis Place wrote a manifesto for a Mechanics Institute.[5]

Despite his high profile in the agitated revolutionary times of the 1820s, he retreated into the realm of Whig journalism after the Reform Act 1832. Hodgskin had a family of seven children to support.[4] He became an advocate of free trade and spent fifteen years writing for The Economist.[6]


Hodgskin was a pioneer of anti-capitalism, individualist anarchism and libertarian socialism.[7][8] His criticism of employers appropriation of the lion's share of the value produced by their employees went on to influence subsequent generations of socialists, including Karl Marx.[4]


  1. ^ "L'Angleterre a-t-elle l'heureux privilège de n'avoir ni Agioteurs, ni Banquiers, ni Faiseurs de services, ni Capitalistes ?". In Clavier, Étienne (1788). De la foi publique envers les créanciers de l'état : lettres à M. Linguet sur le n° CXVI de ses annales (in French). p. 19.
  2. ^ Braudel, Fernand (1979). The Wheels of Commerce: Civilization and Capitalism 15th–18th Century. Harper and Row.
  3. ^ Hodgson, Geoffrey (2015). Conceptualizing Capitalism: Institutions, Evolution, Future. University of Chicago Press. p. 252. ISBN 978-0226168005.
  4. ^ a b c d Eastwood, David. "Hodgskin, Thomas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37556. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ Thompson, Noel (1993). Joyce Bellamy, John Saville (ed.). Dictionary of Labour Biography. Vol. 9. Macmillan. p. 131. ISBN 978-1349078455.
  6. ^ Hunt, E.K. (1980). "The Relation of the Ricardian Socialists to Ricardo and Marx". Science and Society. 44 (2): 196. JSTOR 40402242.
  7. ^ Jun, Nathan J. (2017). Brill's Companion to Anarchism and Philosophy. Brill. p. 301. ISBN 978-9004356894.
  8. ^ Sharma, Urmila; Sharma, S.K. (1998). Western Political Thought. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 252. ISBN 978-8171567355.

Further reading