Corn Laws
The Corn Laws were trade barrier
Trade barrier
Trade barriers are government-induced restrictions on international trade. The barriers can take many forms, including the following:* Tariffs* Non-tariff barriers to trade** Import licenses** Export licenses** Import quotas** Subsidies...

s designed to protect
Protectionism is the economic policy of restraining trade between states through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, restrictive quotas, and a variety of other government regulations designed to allow "fair competition" between imports and goods and services produced domestically.This...

Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

Producer (agriculture)
Producer, in United States agricultural policy, is generally thought of as a farm operator. However, given the sometimes complex ownership and rental arrangements of today’s farms, the 2002 farm bill Producer, in United States agricultural policy, is generally thought of as a farm operator. ...

 in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 against competition from less expensive foreign import
The term import is derived from the conceptual meaning as to bring in the goods and services into the port of a country. The buyer of such goods and services is referred to an "importer" who is based in the country of import whereas the overseas based seller is referred to as an "exporter". Thus...

s between 1815 and 1846. The barriers were introduced by the Importation Act 1815 (55 Geo. 3 c. 26) and repealed by the Importation Act 1846 (9 & 10 Vict. c. 22). These laws are often viewed as examples of British mercantilism
Mercantilism is the economic doctrine in which government control of foreign trade is of paramount importance for ensuring the prosperity and security of the state. In particular, it demands a positive balance of trade. Mercantilism dominated Western European economic policy and discourse from...

, and their abolition marked a significant step towards free trade
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

. The Corn Laws enhanced the profits and political power
Political power
Political power is a type of power held by a group in a society which allows administration of some or all of public resources, including labour, and wealth. There are many ways to obtain possession of such power. At the nation-state level political legitimacy for political power is held by the...

 associated with land ownership.


In 1813, a House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 Committee recommended excluding foreign-grown corn until domestically grown corn reached £4 (2010: £202.25)
per quarter (1 quarter = 480 lb / 218.8 kg). The political economist Thomas Malthus
Thomas Malthus
The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus FRS was an English scholar, influential in political economy and demography. Malthus popularized the economic theory of rent....

 believed this to be a fair price, and that it would be dangerous for Britain to rely on imported corn as lower prices would reduce labourers' wages, and manufacturers would lose out due to the fall in purchasing power of landlords and farmers. However David Ricardo
David Ricardo
David Ricardo was an English political economist, often credited with systematising economics, and was one of the most influential of the classical economists, along with Thomas Malthus, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill. He was also a member of Parliament, businessman, financier and speculator,...

 believed in free trade
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

 so Britain could use its capital and population to her comparative advantage
Comparative advantage
In economics, the law of comparative advantage says that two countries will both gain from trade if, in the absence of trade, they have different relative costs for producing the same goods...

. With the advent of peace in 1814, corn prices dropped, and the Tory
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 government of Lord Liverpool
Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool
Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool KG PC was a British politician and the longest-serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since the Union with Ireland in 1801. He was 42 years old when he became premier in 1812 which made him younger than all of his successors to date...

 passed the 1815 Corn Law. This led to serious rioting in London.


In 1820 the Merchants' Petition, written by Thomas Tooke
Thomas Tooke
Thomas Tooke was an English economist known for writing on money and his work on economic statistics. After Tooke's death the Statistical Society endowed the Tooke Chair of economics at King's College London, and a Tooke Prize.In business, he served several terms between 1840 and 1852 as governor...

, was presented to the Commons demanding free trade and an end to protective tariffs. Lord Liverpool claimed to be in favour of free trade but argued that complicated restrictions made it difficult to repeal protectionist laws. He added, though, that he believed Britain's economic dominance grew in spite of, not because of, the protectionist system. In 1821 the President of the Board of Trade, William Huskisson
William Huskisson
William Huskisson PC was a British statesman, financier, and Member of Parliament for several constituencies, including Liverpool...

, drew up a Commons Committee report which called for a return to the "practically free" trade of the pre-1815 years. The Importation Act 1822 decreed that corn could be imported when domestically harvested corn reached 80 shillings but imported corn was prohibited when the price fell to 70 shillings per quarter. After the passing of this Act until 1828 the corn price never rose to 80 shillings. In 1827 the landlords rejected Huskisson's proposals for a sliding scale and in the next year Huskisson and the new Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

, the Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

, devised a new sliding scale for the Importation of Corn Act 1828 whereby when domestic corn was 52 shillings per quarter or less, the duty would be 34 shillings, 8 pence and when the price rose to 73 shillings the duty declined to 1 shilling.

The Whig
British Whig Party
The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule...

 governments in power for most of the years 1830–41 decided not to repeal the Corn Laws. However the Liberal Whig MP Charles Pelham Villiers
Charles Pelham Villiers
Charles Pelham Villiers was a British lawyer and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1835 to 1898, making him the longest-serving Member of Parliament .-Background and education:...

 proposed motions in the House of Commons in 1837, 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, 1843, 1844 and 1845 to repeal the Corn Laws. In 1842 the majority against repeal was 303, by 1845 this had fallen to 132. The first year that Robert Peel
Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet was a British Conservative statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 December 1834 to 8 April 1835, and again from 30 August 1841 to 29 June 1846...

 voted in favour was 1846, though he had spoke in favour of repeal in 1845 but voted against it. In 1853, when Villiers was made a privy counsellor the Times stated "it was Mr Charles Villiers who practically originated the Free Trade movement".

In 1838 Villiers spoke to a meeting of 5,000 "working class men" in Manchester. At the time, he proclaimed that the presence of so many of them demonstrated that he had their support. In 1840 the Committee on Import Duties led by Villiers published a blue book looking at the effects of the Corn Laws. Tens of thousands of copies were printed in pamphlet form by the Anti-Corn Law League, the report was quoted in the leading newspapers of the day, reprinted in America and published in an abridged form by The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...


In 1841
United Kingdom general election, 1841
-Seats summary:-Whig MPs who lost their seats:*Viscount Morpeth - Chief Secretary for Ireland*Sir George Strickland, Bt*Sir Henry Barron, 1st Baronet-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987...

 Sir Robert Peel
Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet was a British Conservative statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 December 1834 to 8 April 1835, and again from 30 August 1841 to 29 June 1846...

 became Conservative Prime Minister and Richard Cobden
Richard Cobden
Richard Cobden was a British manufacturer and Radical and Liberal statesman, associated with John Bright in the formation of the Anti-Corn Law League as well as with the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty...

, a leading free trader, was elected for the first time. Peel had studied the works of Adam Smith
Adam Smith
Adam Smith was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations...

, David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

 and Ricardo and proclaimed in 1839: "I have read all that has been written by the gravest authorities on political economy on the subject of rent, wages, taxes, tithes". However he voted against repeal in every year from 1837 to 1845. In 1842 in response to the blue book published by Villiers' 1840 Committee on Import Duties, Peel gave the concession of modifying the sliding scale by reducing the top duty to 20 shillings when the price fell to 51 shillings or less. Peel's acolyte Monckton Milne MP said of Villiers at the time of this concession in 1842 that he was "the solitary Robinson Crusoe
Robinson Crusoe
Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe that was first published in 1719. Epistolary, confessional, and didactic in form, the book is a fictional autobiography of the title character—a castaway who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and...

 sitting on the rock of Corn Law repeal".

The landlords claimed that manufacturers like Cobden wanted cheap food so they could drive down wages and thus maximise their profits, a view shared by the socialist
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

Chartism was a movement for political and social reform in the United Kingdom during the mid-19th century, between 1838 and 1859. It takes its name from the People's Charter of 1838. Chartism was possibly the first mass working class labour movement in the world...

 movement. Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 said: "The campaign for the abolition of the Corn Laws had begun and the workers' help was needed. The advocates of repeal therefore promised, not only a Big Loaf (which was to be doubled in size) but also the passing of the Ten Hours Bill" (i.e. to reduce working hours).

The Anti-Corn Law League
Anti-Corn Law League
The Anti-Corn Law League was in effect the resumption of the Anti-Corn Law Association, which had been created in London in 1836 but did not obtain widespread popularity. The Anti-Corn Law League was founded in Manchester in 1838...

, founded in 1838, was peacefully agitating for repeal. They funded writers like William Cooke Taylor
William Cooke Taylor
William Cooke Taylor, Writer, Journalist, Historian and Anti-Corn Law propagandist. Born at Youghal on 16 April 1800 and died at 20 Herbert Street, Dublin on 12 September 1849.Through his mother he claimed descent from the regicide John Cooke....

 to travel the manufacturing regions of northern England to research their cause. Taylor published a number of books as an Anti-Corn Law propagandist, most notably, The Natural History of Society (1841), Notes of a tour in the manufacturing districts of Lancashire (1842), and Factories and the Factory System (1844). Cobden and the rest of the Anti-Corn Law League believed in the view that cheap food meant higher wages and Cobden praised a speech by a working man who said:

When provisions are high, the people have so much to pay for them that they have little or nothing left to buy clothes with; and when they have little to buy clothes with, there are few clothes sold; and when there are few clothes sold, there are too many to sell, they are very cheap; and when they are very cheap, there cannot be much paid for making them: and that, consequently, the manufacturing working man's wages are reduced, the mills are shut up, business is ruined, and general distress is spread through the country. But when, as now, the working man has the said 25s. left in his pocket, he buys more clothing with it (ay, and other articles of comfort too), and that increases the demand for them, and the greater the demand...makes them rise in price, and the rising price enables the working man to get higher wages and the masters better profits. This, therefore, is the way I prove that high provisions make lower wages, and cheap provisions make higher wages.

The Economist
The Economist
The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...

was founded in September 1843 by James Wilson
James Wilson (UK politician)
James Wilson was a Scottish businessman, economist and Liberal politician. He founded The Economist and the Standard Chartered Bank.-Early life:...

 with help from the Anti-Corn Law League; his son-in-law Walter Bagehot
Walter Bagehot
Walter Bagehot was an English businessman, essayist, and journalist who wrote extensively about literature, government, and economic affairs.-Early years:...

 later became the editor of this newspaper.

Continued opposition to repeal

In February 1844, the Duke of Richmond
Charles Gordon-Lennox, 5th Duke of Richmond
Charles Gordon-Lennox, 5th Duke of Richmond and 5th Duke of Lennox KG, PC , styled Earl of March until in 1819, was a British soldier, politician and a prominent Conservative.-Background and education:...

 founded the Central Agricultural Protection Society (CAPS, commonly known as the "Anti-League") to campaign in favour of the Corn Laws.

During 1844, the agitation subsided as there were fruitful harvests. The situation changed in late 1845 with poor harvests and the Great Famine in Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

; Britain faced scarcity and Ireland starvation. Peel argued in Cabinet
Cabinet of the United Kingdom
The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and some 22 Cabinet Ministers, the most senior of the government ministers....

 that tariffs on grain should be rescinded by Order in Council until Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 assembled to repeal the Corn Laws. His colleagues resisted this. Shortly afterwards the Whig leader Lord John Russell
John Russell, 1st Earl Russell
John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, KG, GCMG, PC , known as Lord John Russell before 1861, was an English Whig and Liberal politician who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century....

 declared in favour of repeal. On 4 December 1845 an announcement appeared in The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

that the government had decided to recall Parliament in January 1846 to repeal the Corn Laws. Lord Stanley
Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby
Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, KG, PC was an English statesman, three times Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and to date the longest serving leader of the Conservative Party. He was known before 1834 as Edward Stanley, and from 1834 to 1851 as Lord Stanley...

 resigned from the Cabinet in protest. The next day Peel resigned as Prime Minister because he did not believe he could carry out his policy and so the Queen
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

 sent for Russell to form a government. Russell offered Cobden the post of Vice-President of the Board of Trade
Vice-President of the Board of Trade
The office of Vice-President of the Board of Trade was a junior ministerial position in the government of the United Kingdom. The office was created in 1786 and abolished in 1867. From 1848 onwards the office was held concurrently with that of Paymaster-General...

 but he refused, preferring to remain an advocate of free trade outside the government. By 20 December Russell was unable to form a ministry and so Peel remained Prime Minister.

After Parliament was recalled the CAPS started a campaign of resistance. In the counties
Counties of the United Kingdom
The counties of the United Kingdom are subnational divisions of the United Kingdom, used for the purposes of administrative, geographical and political demarcation. By the Middle Ages counties had become established as a unit of local government, at least in England. By the early 17th century all...

 the CAPS was practically supplanting the local Conservative associations and in many areas the independent free holding farmers were resisting the most fiercely.


On 27 January 1846, Peel gave a three-hour speech saying that the Corn Laws would be abolished on 1 February 1849 after three years of gradual reductions of the tariff, leaving only a 1 shilling duty per quarter. Benjamin Disraeli
Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield
Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, KG, PC, FRS, was a British Prime Minister, parliamentarian, Conservative statesman and literary figure. Starting from comparatively humble origins, he served in government for three decades, twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom...

 and Lord George Bentinck
Lord George Bentinck
Lord George Frederick Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck , better known as simply Lord George Bentinck, was an English Conservative politician and racehorse owner, best known for his role in unseating Sir Robert Peel over the Corn Laws.Bentinck was a younger son of the 4th Duke of Portland, and elected a...

 emerged as the most forceful opponents of repeal in Parliamentary debates, arguing that repeal would socially and politically weaken the traditional landowners and therefore destroy the "territorial constitution" of Britain by empowering commercial interests.

On the third reading
Reading (legislature)
A reading of a bill is a debate on the bill held before the general body of a legislature, as opposed to before a committee or other group. In the Westminster system, there are usually several readings of a bill among the stages it passes through before becoming law as an Act of Parliament...

 of Peel's Bill of Repeal (Importation Act 1846) on 15 May, MPs
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 voted 327 votes to 229 (a majority of 98) to repeal the Corn Laws. On 25 June the Duke of Wellington persuaded the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 to pass it. On that same night Peel's Irish Coercion Bill was defeated in the Commons by 292 to 219 by "a combination of Whigs, Radicals
Radicals (UK)
The Radicals were a parliamentary political grouping in the United Kingdom in the early to mid 19th century, who drew on earlier ideas of radicalism and helped to transform the Whigs into the Liberal Party.-Background:...

, and Tory protectionists". On 29 June Peel resigned as Prime Minister and in his resignation speech he attributed the success of repeal to Cobden:

In reference to our proposing these measures, I have no wish to rob any person of the credit which is justly due to him for them. But I may say that neither the gentlemen sitting on the benches opposite, nor myself, nor the gentlemen sitting round me—I say that neither of us are the parties who are strictly entitled to the merit. There has been a combination of parties, and that combination of parties together with the influence of the Government, has led to the ultimate success of the measures. But, Sir, there is a name which ought to be associated with the success of these measures: it is not the name of the noble Lord, the member for London, neither is it my name. Sir, the name which ought to be, and which will be associated with the success of these measures is the name of a man who, acting, I believe, from pure and disinterested motives, has advocated their cause with untiring energy, and by appeals to reason, expressed by an eloquence, the more to be admired because it was unaffected and unadorned—the name which ought to be and will be associated with the success of these measures is the name of Richard Cobden
Richard Cobden
Richard Cobden was a British manufacturer and Radical and Liberal statesman, associated with John Bright in the formation of the Anti-Corn Law League as well as with the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty...

. Without scruple, Sir, I attribute the success of these measures to him.

As a result the Conservative Party split and the Whigs under Russell formed a government. Those Conservatives who were loyal to Peel were known as the Peelite
The Peelites were a breakaway faction of the British Conservative Party, and existed from 1846 to 1859. They were called "Peelites" because they were initially led by Sir Robert Peel, who was the British Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader in 1846....

s and included the Earl of Aberdeen
George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen
George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen KG, KT, FRS, PC , styled Lord Haddo from 1791 to 1801, was a Scottish politician, successively a Tory, Conservative and Peelite, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1852 until 1855.-Early life:Born in Edinburgh on 28 January 1784, he...

 and William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

. In 1859 the Peelites merged with the Whigs and the Radicals to form the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

. Disraeli became overall Conservative leader in 1868, although, when Prime Minister, he did not attempt to reintroduce protectionism.


Scholars have advanced several explanations to resolve the puzzle of why Peel undertook the seemingly irrational decision to sacrifice his government to repeal the Corn Laws, a policy which he had long opposed. Lusztig (1995) argues that his actions were sensible when viewed in the context of his concern for preserving aristocratic government and a limited franchise in the face of threats from popular unrest. Peel was primarily concerned with preserving the institutions of government, and he viewed reform as an occasional necessary evil to head off the possibility of much more radical or tumultuous actions. He acted to check the expansion of democracy by ameliorating conditions which could provoke democratic agitation. He also took care to ensure that concessions would represent no threat to the British constitution.

Effects of repeal

The price of corn in the two decades after 1850 averaged 52 shillings. Due to the development of cheaper shipping (both sail and steam), faster and thus cheaper transport by rail and steamboat, and the modernisation of agricultural machinery, the prairie
Prairies are considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome by ecologists, based on similar temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and grasses, herbs, and shrubs, rather than trees, as the dominant vegetation type...

 farms of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 were able to export vast quantities of cheap corn, as were peasant farms in the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 with simpler methods but cheaper labour. Every corn-growing country decided to increase tariffs in reaction to this, except Britain and Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

. In 1877 the price of British-grown corn averaged 56 shillings, 9 pence a quarter and for the rest of the nineteenth century it never reached within 10 shillings of that figure. In 1878 the price fell to 46 shillings, 5 pence. By 1885 corn-growing land declined by a million acre
The acre is a unit of area in a number of different systems, including the imperial and U.S. customary systems. The most commonly used acres today are the international acre and, in the United States, the survey acre. The most common use of the acre is to measure tracts of land.The acre is related...

s (4,000 km²) (28½%) and in 1886 the corn price fell to 31 shillings a quarter. Britain's dependence on imported grain in the 1830s was 2%; in the 1860s it was 24%; in the 1880s it was 45%, for corn it was 65%. The 1881 census
Census in the United Kingdom
Coincident full censuses have taken place in the different jurisdictions of the United Kingdom every ten years since 1801, with the exceptions of 1941 and in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State in 1921; simultaneous censuses were taken in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, with...

 showed a decline of 92,250 in agricultural labourers since 1871, with a 53,496 increase of urban labourers. Many of these had previously been farm workers who later migrated to the cities to find employment, despite agricultural labourers' wages being the highest in Europe.

Although highly proficient farmers on good lands did well, farmers with mediocre skills or marginal lands were at a disadvantage. Many moved to the cities, and unprecedented numbers emigrated. Many emigrants were small, undercapitalized grain farmers who were squeezed out by low prices and inability to increase production or adapt to the more complex challenge of raising livestock. Similar patterns developed in Ireland, where cereal production was labour intensive. The reduction in grain prices reduced the demand for agricultural labour in Ireland, and reduced the output of barley, oats, and wheat. These changes occurred at the same time that emigration was reducing the labour supply and pushing wage rates upward to levels too high for arable farmers to sustain.

Further reading

  • Blake, R. [1968](1998) Disraeli, Rev. ed., London: Prion, ISBN 1-85375-275-4
  • Cody, D. (1987) Corn Laws, The Victorian Web: literature, history and culture in the age of Victoria, webpage accessed 16 September 2007
  • Coleman, B. (1996) "1841–1846", in: Seldon, A. (ed.), How Tory Governments Fall. The Tory Party in Power since 1783, London: Fontana, ISBN 0-00-686366-3
  • Ensor, R.C.K. (1936) England, 1870–1914, The Oxford history of England 14, Oxford: Clarendon Press, ISBN 0-19-821705-6.
  • Hilton, Boyd
    Boyd Hilton
    Boyd Hilton is a British historian and a professor and fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He specialises in modern British history, from the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century.Hilton was elected a fellow of Trinity College in 1974...

    (2008) A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People?: England 1783-1846, New Oxford History of England, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-921891-9
  • Hirst, F. W. (1925) From Adam Smith to Philip Snowden. A history of free trade in Great Britain, London: T. Fisher Unwin.
  • Morley, J. (1905) The Life of Richard Cobden, 12th ed., London: T. Fisher Unwin, 985 p., republished by London: Routledge/Thoemmes (1995), ISBN 0-415-12742-4
  • Schonhardt-Bailey, C. (2006) From the Corn Laws to Free Trade: interests, ideas, and institutions in historical perspective, Cambridge, Mass.; London: The MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-19543-7; quantitivate studies of the politics involved
  • Semmel, B. (2004) The Rise of Free Trade Imperialism: classical political economy the empire of free trade and imperialism, 1750–1850, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-54815-2
  • Woodward, E.L., Sir (1962) The Age of Reform, 1815–1870, The Oxford history of England 13, 2nd Ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press, ISBN 0-19-821711-0

Primary and contemporary sources

  • Bright, J. and Thorold Rogers, J.E. (eds.) [1870](1908) Speeches on Questions of Public Policy by Richard Cobden, M.P., Vol. 1, London: T. Fisher Unwin, republished as Cobden, R. (1995), London: Routledge/Thoemmes, ISBN 0-415-12742-4
  • Marx, K. (1970) Capital: a critique of political economy; Vol. 3: the process of capitalist production as a whole, Engels, F. (Ed.), London: Lawrence & Wishart, ISBN 0-85315-028-1
  • Taylor, W.C. (1841) Natural History of Society, D. Appleton & Co., New York
  • Taylor, W.C. (1842) Notes of a tour in the manufacturing districts of Lancashire: in a series of letters, London: Duncan & Malcolm.
  • Taylor, W.C. (1844) Factories and the Factory System, Jeremiah How, London

External links

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