Monday, 15 October 2012

William Cuffay - New Biography

New book aims to raise the status of William Cuffay as a leading figure in British history

William Cuffay (1788-1870) was one of the leaders of Chartism, which was the

largest political movement ever seen in Britain. His grandfather was an enslaved

African and his father was a West Indian slave, from St Kitts, who managed to

gain his freedom and settle in Chatham, Kent.

Cuffay trained as a tailor and moved to London where, in 1834, he was involved

in the tailors’ strike for shorter hours. In 1839 he joined the Chartist movement

and soon became well known for his oratory and sense of humour. At the final

mass demonstration for the Charter on Kennington Common on 10 April 1848,

he protested strongly at the decision to call off the march to the House of

Commons to present the petition. He called the national leadership ‘a set of

cowardly humbugs’.

In August 1848, Cuffay became involved in a secret revolutionary committee

which was planning an uprising in London. He was arrested, tried and convicted,

on the evidence of two police spies, of levying war against the Queen. He was

sentenced to transportation for life in Tasmania. In Hobart he carried on working

as a tailor and remained actively involved in Tasmanian politics for twenty years. His wife
was able to join him in 1853 and he was granted a free pardon in 1856. In 1870 he died a
pauper in the workhouse.

William Cuffay’s reputation during the Chartist years was immense, yet he was
subsequently forgotten for over 130 years. This book aims to set him in his historical context
and restore him to his rightful place as one of the key figures in British history.

Includes more than 200 historical pictures & illustrations


Martin Hoyles taught in Newham secondary schools in east London and at the University of
East London. He has written books on gardening, childhood and literacy. His latest books are
The Axe Laid to the Root: The Story of Robert Wedderburn
and Ira Aldridge: Celebrated 19th Century Actor.
With his wife Asher, Martin wrote
Remember Me: Achievements of Mixed Race People, Past and Present, Moving Voices: Black Performance
Dyslexia from a Cultural Perspective and Caribbean Publishing in Britain.

William Cuffay: The Life and Times of a Chartist Leader

by Martin Hoyles
Publication Date: 31 October 2012 • Paperback • 284 pages • 228 x 152mm • £9.99 • ISBN: 978-1-906190-62-0


P.O. Box 226, Hertford, Hertfordshire, SG14 3WY, United Kingdom • Email:


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