Joshua Toulmin Smith

Lawyer, Deceased Person

1816 – 1869


Who was Joshua Toulmin Smith?

Joshua Toulmin Smith was a British political theorist, lawyer and local historian of Birmingham.

Born in Birmingham as Joshua Smith, he moved to London in 1835 and pursued a career in law, studying at Lincoln's Inn. Smith was not called to the bar until 1849, as he interrupted his legal studies to settle between 1837 and 1842 with his new wife Martha in America where he lectured on philosophy and phrenology. Joshua Smith was an incessant writer. In 1839 he gained a diploma of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Copenhagen for his work The Discovery of America by the Northmen in the Tenth Century, while his interest in geology and subsequent papers led to him being offered the position of President of the newly formed Geologists' Association, which he declined. However, the main focus of his writings for many years was as a proponent of local self-government through traditional institutions, such as the parish, the vestry and the ward, a subject also taken up by his daughter Lucy Toulmin Smith. After the cholera epidemic of 1847, Smith's knowledge of law combined with his involvement in his own Highgate neighbourhood led to his demanding better sanitation and reforms advocating devolution and local responsibility. In 1851 his work Local Self-Government and Centralisation was published and followed in 1854 by The Parish and its Obligations and Powers.

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May 29, 1816
  • England
Lived in
  • Birmingham
Apr 28, 1869

on July 23, 2013


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