Hoggart was born in the
Potternewton area of
Leeds, one of three children in an impoverished family. His father, a soldier, died when Hoggart was a year old, and his mother died when he was eight. He grew up with his grandmother in
Hunslet, and was encouraged in his education by an aunt. He gained a place at
Cockburn High School which was a
grammar school, after his headmaster requested that the education authority reread his scholarship examination essay. He then won a scholarship to study English at the
University of Leeds, where he graduated with a First Class Degree.
 He served with the
Royal Artillery during
World War II and was demobilised as a Staff Captain.