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The Politics of Corn Law Repeal and Theories of Commercial Policy


  • McKeown, T. J.


The large shift in voting in the House of Commons on repeal of the Corn Laws in the 1842-46 period has led many analysts to focus on the political calculus of Peel's government and on the role of ideology in shaping this policy change. While the claim that ideology was an independent source of change lacks substantiation, the claims about Peel's changing political calculus are an important part of a larger explanation for the change in voting. However, showing that Peel had his own reasons for preferring repeal is not the same as showing why Peel was successful. An analysis of the political and economic interests of constituents and Members of Parliament reveals that these interests were systematically related to Members' votes on repeal. Repeal is thus more appropriately understood as the result of the interaction of Peel's immediate objectives with a more congenial political environment that had arisen due to the changes induced by British economic development.

Suggested Citation

  • McKeown, T. J., 1989. "The Politics of Corn Law Repeal and Theories of Commercial Policy," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 19(3), pages 353-380, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:bjposi:v:19:y:1989:i:03:p:353-380_00

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    Cited by:

    1. Chen, Baizhu & Feng, Yi, 2001. "Openness and trade policy in China: an industrial analysis," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 323-341.
    2. Crafts, Nicholas, 2011. "Explaining the first Industrial Revolution: two views," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 153-168, April.
    3. Richard T. Cupitt & Euel Elliott, 1994. "Schattschneider Revisited: Senate Voting On The Smoot‐Hawley Tariff Act Of 1930," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(3), pages 187-199, November.

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