Cottage Economy

Published in New York in 1824, this volume in the American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection is the quintessential guide to self-sufficiency. Cobbett encourages the laboring class to become self-reliant and live off the land and provides practical instructions on how to do it.

The American publication of Cottage Economy by Stephen Gould and Sons was basically a compilation of a series of pamphlets published by Cobbett in 1821 in England. Cobbett was an English political activist at a time when the industrial revolution was changing the face of rural Britain, and he was constantly concerned with improving the living conditions of the working classes. The book presents his philosophy that a laborer should be taught industry, sobriety, frugality, and “the duty of using his best exertions for the rearing of his family.”

With practical instructions still relevant for those seeking self-reliance, Cobbett teaches the working classes of the 19th century the arts of brewing beer, keeping livestock, making bread, and “other matters deemed useful in conducting affairs of a labourer’s family.” Contents include “information relative to the brewing of beer, the making of bread, keeping of cows, pigs, bees, ewes, goats, poultry, and rabbits . . . to which are added instructions relative to the selecting, the cutting, and the bleaching of the plants of English grass and grain, for the purpose of making hats and bonnets.


This edition of Cottage Economy was reproduced by permission from the volume in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a Revolutionary War patriot and successful printer and publisher, the Society is a research library documenting the life of Americans from the colonial era through 1876. The Society collects, preserves, and makes available as complete a record as possible of the printed materials from the early American experience. The cookbook collection includes approximately 1,100 volumes.

About the Author

 William Cobbett was at various times a soldier, a farmer, a radical activist and politician, and a journalist. He believed that reforming parliament and it's corrupt apportioning of constituencies would help end the poverty of farm laborers, and he attacked the system relentlessly. Early in his career, he was a loyalist supporter of king and country, but he later joined and successfully publicized the radical movement that led to the important Reform Bill of 1832 and to his winning a parliamentary seat. Through the seeming contradictions of Cobbett's life, two things remained constant: an opposition to authority and a suspicion of novelty. He wrote many polemics on subjects from political reform to religion, but he is best known for his 1830 book Rural Rides, which is still in print today.

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