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from the Corn Laws to Free Trade Complementary forces behind the repeal of Britain's Corn Lawsschonhardt-bailey's

A Research Annual

ISBN: 978-1-84663-904-3, eISBN: 978-1-84663-905-0

Publication date: 31 July 2008


One of the most momentous events in Britain's nineteenth-century economic history was the repeal of the Corn Laws and its move toward free trade in 1846. The reasons for this event have fascinated students both of the history of economic thought and of international economics for many generations. Introductory textbooks in both these fields of economics discuss the Corn Laws in connection with David Ricardo's principle of comparative advantage and his plea for free trade, particularly in the commodities consumed by the working class such as “corn” (a commodity that in classical times denoted all types of grain such as wheat, barley, and rye). The puzzling feature of this repeal, that intrigued scholars such as Schonhardt-Bailey and impelled them to search for plausible explanations, is that it appeared to run counter to the economic interests of the class of landowners that controlled Parliament and passed this legislation. Numerous explanations for this apparently paradoxical behavior have been advanced by historians, economists, and political scientists, and this book is the latest in this long and diverse series of accounts.


Maneschi, A. (2008), " from the Corn Laws to Free Trade Complementary forces behind the repeal of Britain's Corn Lawsschonhardt-bailey's", Samuels, W.J., Biddle, J.E. and Emmett, R.B. (Ed.) A Research Annual (Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, Vol. 26 Part 1), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 187-195.



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