corn laws

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corn laws,

regulations restricting the export and import of grain, particularly in England. As early as 1361 export was forbidden in order to keep English grain cheap. Subsequent laws, numerous and complex, forbade export unless the domestic price was low and forbade import unless it was high. The purpose of the laws was to assure a stable and sufficient supply of grain from domestic sources, eliminating undue dependence on foreign supplies, yet allowing for imports in time of scarcity. The corn law of 1815 was designed to maintain high prices and prevent an agricultural depression after the Napoleonic Wars. Consumers and laborers objected, but it was the criticism of manufacturers that the laws hampered industrialization by subsidizing agriculture that proved most effective. Following a campaign by the Anti-Corn-Law LeagueAnti-Corn-Law League,
organization formed in 1839 to work for the repeal of the English corn laws. It was an affiliation of groups in various cities and districts with headquarters at Manchester and was an outgrowth of the smaller Manchester Anti-Corn-Law Association.
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, the corn laws were repealed by the Conservative government of Sir Robert Peel in 1846, despite the opposition of many of his own party, led by Lord George Bentinck and Benjamin Disraeli. With the revival of protectionism in the 20th cent., new grain restriction laws have been passed, but they have not been as extensive as those of earlier times.


See D. G. Barnes, A History of English Corn Laws from 1660 to 1846 (1930, repr. 1965); N. Longmate, The Breadstealers (1984).

Corn Laws


the general term for the British laws that, from the 15th to 19th centuries, regulated the import and export of grain and other agricultural products (chiefly through the imposition of high import and low export duties). The net effect of the Corn Laws was to limit the agricultural products available on the domestic market and to increase the products’ prices; the laws thus served the interests of the big landowners and helped preserve the system of landlordism.

During the 19th century the demand for the repeal of the Corn Laws became a slogan of the strengthened industrial bourgeoisie, which sought to weaken the economic and political position of the landed aristocracy and to expand its own influence. The anti-Corn Law movement was an integral part of the industrial bourgeoisie’s struggle to introduce free trade (see). In 1846 the British government, despite opposition from the landlords, carried a bill through Parliament repealing the Corn Laws; according to K. Marx, repeal of the laws was the “greatest triumph free trade achieved in the 19th century” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 4, p. 404).

References in periodicals archive ?
One of the Corn Law divisions indicated both sides of the vote; the other two only recorded MPs opposed to protection.
Indeed there is heavy irony in Peel's repeal of the Corn Laws in response to an Irish famine caused by potato blight.
For many decades, Sir Robert Peel, Conservative Prime Minister in 1846, repealed the Corn Laws, which kept the price of bread high, against the wishes of his party.
The repeal of the Corn Laws drove the first wedge between agriculture and government.
The Corn Laws were imposed on the country in 1815 at the end of the Napoleonic Wars to attempt to preserve the high profits landowners and some farmers had enjoyed.
xl A FEW observations on the Corn Law and a short plan for the better protection of the poor.
Notably, not all members of the working class even looked to their own class's leaders, since Corn Law agitators were among the contenders.
It may also be significant that in the period after Corn Law repeal, trade was neither as free nor as open as this book and the existing literature suggest (a point on which I expand later).
The Anti- Corn Law League Bazaar has raised thoughts in the national mind which will not soon die.
For example, Bigelow does not mention that when the Peel government dismantled the relief program in 1846 they also repealed the Corn Law.
A political liberal, he advocated repeal of the Corn Law, Catholic Emancipation, and rights for Dissenters.
This wedge is substantially greater than the Corn Law tariffs, which over that period averaged 7s.