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Thomas Tooke on the Corn Laws


  • Matthew Smith


This article examines Thomas Tooke's (1773–1858) position on the English Corn Laws from 1815 until their repeal in 1846. It shows that like most classical economists, Tooke was a strong supporter of free trade who vehemently opposed the Corn Laws, believing that they generally contributed toward greater instability in the price of corn without effectively protecting domestic farming and securing for Britain a ready supply of corn. The article also explores Tooke's view on the distributional impact of the Corn Laws, showing that distinct from Ricardo's position, he believed they tended to redistribute income in favor of landlords at the expense of workers rather than capitalists. Indeed, it is shown that above all Tooke opposed the Corn Laws because they tended to lower the living standards of working people and, at times of unproductive harvests, contributed to acute shortages of foodstuffs that imposed much hardship onto the “lowest classes” of society.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew Smith, 2009. "Thomas Tooke on the Corn Laws," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 41(2), pages 343-382, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:41:y:2009:i:2:p:343-382

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard Layard, 2006. "Happiness and Public Policy: a Challenge to the Profession," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages 24-33, March.
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    3. N. Emrah Aydinonat, 2006. "Is the Invisible Hand un− Smithian? A Comment on Rothschild," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 2(2), pages 1-9.
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    5. A. M. C. Waterman, 2002. "Economics as Theology: Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 68(4), pages 907-921, April.
    6. repec:ebl:ecbull:v:2:y:2006:i:2:p:1-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Brewer, Anthony, 1998. "Luxury and Economic Development: David Hume and Adam Smith," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 45(1), pages 78-98, February.
    8. Anthony Brewer, 1997. "An eighteenth-century view of economic development: Hume and Steuart," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(1), pages 1-22.
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    Thomas Tooke; English Corn Laws;


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