Who Do You Think You Are?
Francis Place 1771–1854
How a radical tailor fought to improve the rights of paupers and workers
Francis Place was born near Drury Lane in London, the son of a sponging-house owner. He went to school to the age of 14 and always valued education as a way of improving the lot of the poor. He was apprenticed to a breeches-maker, and had early experience of radicalism when he led a strike.
He then joined the London Corresponding Society, a group learning from books
that had inspired the American War of Independence and the French Revolution.
In 1800 he set up shop as a tailor at 16 Charing Cross, which became a meeting place for radicals. He was friendly with such leading figures as William Godwin, Jeremy Bentham, and James and John Stuart Mill.
In 1822 he published Illustrations and
Proofs of the Principle of Population in which he controversially proposed that the poor use contraception to reduce poverty.
He subsequently successfully worked to repeal the Combination Acts which outlawed trade unions. He also argued for the electoral Reform Bill of 1832, and in 1838 with William Lovett drafted the People’s Charter calling for all men to have the vote.