18 September 1838

The Anti-Corn Law League is established by Richard Cobden.

The Corn Laws were a series of British trade regulations that were in place during the 18th and early 19th centuries. These laws primarily concerned the import and export of grain, especially wheat, and had a significant impact on agricultural and economic policies in Britain.

Import Tariffs: The Corn Laws imposed high tariffs (import duties) on foreign grains, making it more expensive for British consumers to purchase imported wheat and other grains. These tariffs were designed to protect domestic agriculture by ensuring that British farmers could sell their produce at higher prices.

Price Controls: The laws also included provisions that set a minimum price for domestically produced grain. If the market price fell below this minimum price, the government would take measures to restrict imports, thereby supporting the domestic grain market.

Benefited Landowners: The primary beneficiaries of the Corn Laws were wealthy landowners and aristocrats who owned agricultural land. These landowners lobbied for the laws because they wanted to maintain high prices for their grain and ensure a stable income.

Detrimental Effects: The Corn Laws were highly controversial and faced significant opposition, particularly from urban workers and manufacturers. The tariffs on grain led to higher food prices, which disproportionately affected the working class and contributed to social unrest.

Repeal: The campaign to repeal the Corn Laws gained momentum in the early 19th century, with notable figures like Sir Robert Peel supporting free trade principles. The Anti-Corn Law League, led by Richard Cobden and John Bright, played a crucial role in advocating for their repeal.

In 1846, Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel’s government successfully passed the Corn Laws Repeal Act, which effectively abolished the protectionist measures. This marked a significant shift toward free trade in Britain, as the country moved away from protectionist policies and embraced the principles of open markets and free trade.