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Joshua Hobson was born in Huddersfield in 1810 and had little formal education. He was apprenticed to a joiner, then became a handloom weaver near Oldham. He wrote for local papers there and then returned to Huddersfield where he became caught up in the work of local Short-Time Committee that was formed to support Hobhouse's Factory Bill of 1831. Hobson became associated with the Tory radical Richard Oastler and the 'Yorkshire Slavery' campaign. In June 1833 the first issue of Hobson's Voice of the West Riding appeared. It was intended as the voice of the Short-Time Committees but led Hobson into other forms of working class agitation.
In April 1833 Hobson printed the Book of Murder, a pamphlet attacking the Poor Law Amendment Act; in August 1833 he was imprisoned in Wakefield gaol for publishing an unstamped paper. He was gaoled for the same offence in 1835 and 1836. In the autumn of 1834 he moved to Leeds and set up as a printer and publisher. For twelve years he was the main publisher of radical material in the West Riding, including the Northern Star (1837-1844) which he also edited for a time. Also he printed and published Owen's New Moral World (1839-41). He was responsible for printing and publishing almost all the Owenite and Chartist pamphlets and books in this period and wrote pamphlets defending Owenite Socialism.
The Northern Star began as a Barnsley paper for working men, advocating the abolition of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act and a renewal of the Trade Union and Ten-Hour movements but moved to Leeds in 1837. The idea of a popular newspaper for the West Riding came from Joshua Hobson and William Hill. Hill, the son of a Barnsley handloom weaver.
Hobson was nominated as an Improvement Commissioner for Leeds in January 1840 as part of the idea of Municipal Chartism. Nineteen citizens were elected annually and in 1838 and 1839 Tory Commissioners were elected. In 1840 a combination of Whigs, radicals and Chartists defeated the Tory bloc. Hobson was not elected, but another Chartist, John Jackson, was. In 1841 the liberals' list was carried again and in 1842 the Chartist list was carried. All nineteen members of the Improvement Commission were, according to the Northern Star, 'staunch friends of the people's cause'. In November 1843, Hobson and Jackson were elected to Leeds council: they were outnumbered 62:2 so they could do little to affect policy. They did provide an 'awkward squad', however.
In November 1844 the Northern Star moved from Leeds to London, removing several top-level Chartists from Leeds, including Hobson who went as editor but found that he disliked London. By 1847 Hobson was back in Huddersfield where he became one of the Poor Law Guardians for the town. It is clear from his work concerning the Huddersfield workhouse scandal of 1848 that the Guardians were intent on ensuring the best treatment possible for the poor of the town.
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