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The Corn Law

The end of the Napoleonic Wars did not bring about the economic relief that Britain was hoping for. Industry was at a low, bad harvests had forced prices up and the returning soldiers made unemployment statistics worse. Added to this, the government refused to allow corn in from abroad, unless British corn was sold at famine prices (very high cost). This meant that no foreign corn would be allowed into Britain unless British corn reached the price of 80 shillings per quarter. As a result of this law farmers had no need to lower their prices and the poor were forced to go hungry. This law was known as the Corn Law. In many places the anger caused by this law, and the poverty-stricken state it helped to cultivate, turned to violence and protests.

The "Swing" Riots

In 1830 the political situation in Britain took a turn for the worse when many agricultural workers turned to violence and hay-rick burning. They were protesting against low wages, poor conditions and new machinery - which they believed was slowly replacing them. At this time labouring classes were not able to vote and so they had to get their opinions across via different, and often violent, means.

The "Swing Riots" were named after the man who is supposed to have led them. It is thought that these riots were responsible for the Royal Commission Report undertaken in the early 1830s into the working of the Poor Law.

[Original author: Miranda Greene, 2003]