Corn Laws

The early 19th century is the Era of Restauration, an era attempting to restore the pre-revolutionary constitution and model of society. In parliaments of the era, noble owners of estates were strongly represented, often even held the majority. As their estates produced wheat (= corn), their income depended on the price of wheat. In order to stabilize the corn prize, foreign wheat was burdened with import tariffs, in England, under a certain prize limit, wheat imports completely banned. These regulations held the price of wheat, and bread, artificially high. In the early 19th century, wheat imports were most likely to come from the Polish and Ukrainian provinces of the Russian Empire.
In regard to agricultural products, the economic policy applied was protectionist, not laissez-faire.
The Corn Laws and their consequences were not unique to the United Kingdom; Belgium, some German states pursued a similar policy, for similar reasons, with similar consequences. High wheat and bread prices made bread a luxury item for the working class, which relied on potatoes as standard food. When the potato harvest was poor in the later 1840es, the subsequent famine caused Belgium (1846) and the United Kingdom (1846) to repeal the Corn Laws.

Article Corn Laws, from Spartacus Schoolnet, from Victorian Web (very brief), from Wikipedia, from Britain Express
DOCUMENTS Observations on the Corn Laws, by T.R. Malthus, 1814, posted by Avalon Project
The Corn Law Debate, from A Web of English History, numerous primary sources

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on September 28th 2003, last revised on November 16th 2004

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