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, the corn laws were repealed by the Conservative government of Sir Robert Peel in 1846, despite the opposition of many of his own party, led by Lord George Bentinck and Benjamin Disraeli.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 were 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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Parliament had passed the Corn Laws bill in 1815 to keep the price of grain high to benefit domestic producers which led to the price of bread going up, and bread riots.
(28) The political targets of such actions during the volatile strikes of 1842, as well as the appropriation of certain civil authorities and functions, suggest that the stakes of the struggle might have been much higher than either the Charter or Corn Law repeal.
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).
Mixed feelings intensified after the Corn Laws were repealed; buying and selling at the Great Exhibition in 1851, for example, had turned it into the "Sublime of the Bazaar," implying that the event in Hyde Park was not only a beautiful apotheosis but that it also simultaneously inspired awe and even terror.
When the Corn Law was repealed, it had a disastrous effect on the larger Irish farmers, who now received lower prices for their grain while paying an increased Poor Tax to support the victims of the famine.
"The 19th Century Corn Law Revisited," Economic History Review, 2nd series, 18, 1965, pp.
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.
'The Nineteenth-Century Corn Law Reconsidered', Economic History Review 18(3), pp.
Few know of Elliot, but he was the self-styled "Corn Law Rhymer" whose biting satire decried the appalling conditions of the poor and called capitalists and the government to task.
Gomes's acknowledgement of ideology determines the structure of his book, which is in two parts, the first analysing debates about the economics of free trade and the second covering what he lists as 'rhetoric, events, policies and ideology', beginning with the Corn Law repeal debate in Britain.
In his maiden speech in parliament in 1841, Cobden warned the Corn Law Protectionists that "You and yours will vanish like chaff before the whirlwind" (I, 10), and when Bright defended his own views concerning the proper application of corn, he passed judgement on Disraeli's policies and eloquence in a single sweep: "his chaff is excellent, but his wheat is abominable!" (Agg-Gardner 244).
A political history of the House of Lords, 1811-1846, from the regency to corn law repeal.