Chronic inflammation has been proposed as having a prominent role in the construction of social inequalities in health. Disentangling the effects of early life and adulthood social disadvantage on inflammation is key in elucidating biological mechanisms underlying socioeconomic disparities. Here we explore the relationship between socioeconomic position (SEP) across the life course and inflammation (as measured by CRP levels) in up to 23,008 participants from six European cohort studies from three countries conducted between 1958 and 2013. We find a consistent inverse association between SEP and CRP across cohorts, where participants with a less advantaged SEP have higher levels of inflammation. Educational attainment is most strongly related to inflammation, after adjusting for health behaviours, body mass index and later-in-life SEP. These findings suggest socioeconomic disadvantage in young adulthood is independently associated with later life inflammation calling for further studies of the pathways operating through educational processes.