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, the corn laws were repealed by the Conservative government of Sir Robert Peel in 1846, despite the opposition of many of his own party, led by Lord George Bentinck and Benjamin Disraeli.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 ?
After receiving a copy of Elliott's Corn Law Rhymes, for instance, one Yorkshire artisan remarked, "I read the poems over one after another, first to myself, and then to my wife and children.
Women's appearances were stage-managed to reinforce the impression that they represented a collective female consciousness that had identified the corn law campaign as one worthy of their charitable endeavours.
Public agitation in support of the repeal of the Corn Laws, and the implementation of free trade policies more generally, took its support from developments in political economy: Bagehot, for instance, referred to the League's meetings as "one talking political economy" (XII, 215), and while one Tory paper complained that "Lecturers are paid to perambulate the country, and to declaim against the atrocities of landed monopoly" (Jephson II, 301), the League's own paper congratulated itself on not always being able to report the lectures it organized: "We cannot here speak in any detail of the public meetings of the last few days.
Davis tracks the leading members of the house and their involvement with such issues as the constitutional revolution, efforts at municipal reform, continued questions about Ireland as it slid toward disaster, debate about religion, strongly different ideas about social legislation, and the career-making and career-breaking details of the movement to repeal the Corn Law.
Abolitionist" MPs favored Corn Law repeal throughout the decade with impressive voting participation rates of eighty-five percent and higher.
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 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.
The repeal of the Corn Laws drove the first wedge between agriculture and government.
In From the Corn Laws to Free Trade, Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey takes a fresh and rigorous look at the determinants of Corn Law repeal in mid-nineteenth-century Great Britain and tries to integrate the role of broader economic interests with the role of ideas and politics to find out why the British adopted free trade.
The Anti- Corn Law League Bazaar has raised thoughts in the national mind which will not soon die.
A political liberal, he advocated repeal of the Corn Law, Catholic Emancipation, and rights for Dissenters.