D'Maris Coffman – The Corn Laws: Seeing through the Eyes of Ricardo and Malthus

The British Corn Returns data provided the empirical basis for the fierce debate around the introduction and repeal of the 19th century British Corn Laws. Contemporary readers, like David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus, followed them as closely as stock market prices of today.  Much of 19th century political economy rested on contemporaries' interpretations of this data.

Historians have long lacked the empirical data that was the substance of these key debates in 19th century economics – but D'Maris Coffman is about to change that. As part of her INET-funded research, she will make available an unbroken time series of the prices of standardized commodities, The Corn Returns Online, as an online resource that sheds new light on the development of classical political economy and that bears the potential to answer age-old questions about the Corn Laws.



It's wonderful that there will be a good database of the economics of the Corn Laws and I look forward to seeing the results. I wrote a piece based on Hobesbawm's perception of the Corn Laws, and the economics leading up to the finances of Downton Abbey, very much broad brush and definitely not academic, but wish I'd had more information concerning the Corn Laws and their impact on development of industry, social reform and financial developments. http://somewhatlogically.com/?p=702

Based on Hobesbawms characterization of the Corn Laws, grand old Marxist historian that he was, he implies that the Corn Laws were a bailout of the financial sector and finance. “The Corn Laws which the farming industry imposed on the country in 1815 were not designed to save a tottering sector of the economy, but rather to preserve the abnormally high profits of the Napoleonic war-years, and to safeguard farmers from the consequences of their wartime euphoria, when farms had changed hands at the fanciest prices, loans and mortgages had been accepted on impossible terms.”

When will the results of the study be available?




For those who are interested, you can check out our new web resource, Corn Returns Online at http://www.cornreturnsonline.org which gives you the opportunity to register and to download parts of the data set.

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