Thomas Hughes (October 20, 1822 – March 22, 1896) was an English lawyer and author. He is most famous for his novel Tom Brown's School Days (1857), a semi-autobiographical work set at Rugby School, which Hughes had attended. It had a lesser-known sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford (1861).
Hughes was the second son of John Hughes, editor of the Boscobel Tracts (1830). Thomas Hughes was born in Uffington, Berkshire. In February 1834 he went to Rugby School, which was then under Dr Thomas Arnold, a contemporary of his father at Oriel College, Oxford, and the most influential British schoolmaster of the 19th century. In the sixth form, he came into contact with the headmaster, whom he afterwards idealized; but he excelled at sports rather than in scholarship, and his school career culminated in a cricket match at Lord's Cricket Ground. In 1842 he went on to Oriel, and graduated B.A. in 1845. He was called to the bar in 1848, became Queen's Counsel in 1869 and a bencher in 1870, and was appointed to a county court judgeship in the Chester district in July 1882.
Hughes was elected to Parliament as a Liberal for Lambeth (1865–1868), and for Frome (1868–1874). An avid social reformer, he became interested in the Christian socialism movement led by Frederick Maurice, which he had joined in 1848. He was involved in the formation of some early trade unions. Most notably, in January 1854 he was one of the original promoters of the Working Men's College in Great Ormond Street.
In 1880 he founded a settlement in America — Rugby, Tennessee — which was designed as an experiment in utopian living for second sons of the English gentry, although this later proved largely unsuccessful.
In 1848 Hughes had married Frances Ford. They settled in 1853 at Wimbledon and whilst living there Hughes wrote his famous story, Tom Brown's School-Days, which was published in April 1857.
Hughes also wrote The Scouring of the White Horse (1859), Tom Brown at Oxford (1861), Religio Laici (1868), Life of Alfred the Great (1869) and the Memoir of a Brother. His brother was George Hughes, whom the character of Tom Brown was based upon.