Spence, Thomas

Spence, Thomas,

1750–1814, English agrarian socialist. A forerunner of the single taxers (see single taxsingle tax,
any levy that serves as the government's only source of revenue. Generally, however, it is understood to mean a tax derived from economic rent and used as the sole source of public receipts.
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), he devised a scheme by which the parishes would assume ownership of the land and rent paid to the parish corporation would be the sole tax. He devoted much of his life to agitating for these principles and founded a society of Spenceans. He set forth his ideas in The Real Rights of Man (1775) and other pamphlets.


See study by O. D. Rudkin (1927, repr. 1966).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Spence, Thomas


Born June 21,1750, in Newcastle-on-Tyne; died Sept. 8,1814, in London. English Utopian socialist and economist.

Spence was influenced by the theorists of natural law. In his pamphlet The Real Rights of Man (1775), he supported the abolition of private ownership and the transfer of land to church parishes for free rental to parishioners. He considered it thus possible to create a new social structure—a free association of self-governing communities. Spence was repeatedly subjected to repression. His teachings influenced R. Owen.


Volgin, V. P. Istoriia sotsialisticheskikh idei, part 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1928.
Cherniak, E. B. Massovoe dvizhenie v Anglii i Irlandii v kontse XVIII-nachaleXIX v. Moscow, 1962.
Rudkin, O. D. Thomas Spence. New York, 1927.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The decision not to discuss in detail the roots of the movement, both in terms of ideology (the physiocrats, Thomas Spence, Thomas Jefferson) and personnel (the trades' union movement and working men's movements of the 1830s) means that this short treatment omits much of the essential historical context.