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The Cobden Club was founded in 1866 in London, as a society to spread the free trade doctrines of the Manchester School. It was named after Richard Cobden, who had died the previous year. In a sense, it was the successor of the Anti-Corn Law League of Manchester.
It was a completely different creature from the Political Economy Club of London, which was an exclusive dinner discussion club. The Cobden Club was not even a "club" in a proper sense - it had no facilities or regular meetings, save for a annual dinner, but more akin to a society. Membership was open to the public (it counted among some 750 members, domestic and foreign by the end of the 19th C). Its large annual dinner meeting consisted of lectures and free-wheeling discussion.
The principal object of the Cobden Club was to influence general public opinion, and from the outset had a publishing arm. Membership fees were charged and subscriptions raised to fund numerous publications and pamphlets for widespread distribution.
Resources on the Cobden Club
All rights reserved, Gonšalo L. Fonseca