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, the corn laws were repealed by the Conservative government of Sir Robert Peel in 1846, despite the opposition of many of his own party, led by Lord George Bentinck and Benjamin Disraeli.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 ?
The Corn Laws were loathed by manufacturers and businessmen in the industrial districts because they kept the price of bread high, which meant that working people needed higher wages than that which their gaffers were often prepared to pay.
In the run up to Waterloo there were food riots on the streets of London, while a ring of steel was put up around Parliament to protect MPs and peers from a mob protesting against the passage of the Corn Law legislation.
79) Robert Peel 1788-1850: Tory Premier, scythed Corn Laws that kept up bread prices.
From his new seat in Birmingham, Bright led the campaign for the vote for the working class and household suffrage which culminated in his driving Disraeli to the Reform Act of 1867, no less than he had driven Peel to the repeal of the Corn Laws.
Others look at social topics, such as the debate over removing burials to cemeteries outside of London, government attempts at censoring accusations of homosexuality by military, religious and parliamentary members and the role played by Harriet Martineau in the repeal of the corn laws.
It is Michaelmas (whenever the hell that is) and Mrs Feathergale (Colin Jackson) is distraught the Corn Laws are yet to be repealed despite the fact she hasn't got any corn.
He supported the American colonists in seeking independence from the Crown and emphasized the importance of trade when the Tories still supported the antitrade Corn Laws.
From the Corn Laws to Free Trade: Interests, Ideas, and Institutions in Historical Perspective
Ricardo's analysis of the determinants of rent and profits was an important foundation for the principal policy implication that flowed from both his Essay on Profits (Ricardo 1951a) and Principles: the repeal of Britain's Corn Laws leading to free trade in grain.
Peel repealed the Corn Laws - which meant cheaper food for the poor - but he was brought down by a vicious attack from another Tory, Benjamin Disraeli.
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.
Two centuries after Adam Smith and the repeal of the Corn Laws in Britain, the surprise is the world is still arguing about the rights and wrongs of tariffs and subsidies.