Sep 182013

In his diary the seventy-year-old Richard Hall writes:

riots2 001

Small wonder that the rioters took to the streets when you consider just what a profound increase there had been in the cost of one of the staples of the British diet – a loaf of bread.


Richard was terrified at the effects of inflation – especially at a time when his disposable income was being savaged by the introduction of income tax. A look at his household expenses shows why he was so concerned:

inflation 001

So, for 1798 Richard spent just over fourteen pounds on bread during the year. It remained much the same for 1799 (Thirteen pounds six shillings and nine pence halfpenny) but the following year it rocketed – doubling in just one year to a shade over twenty seven pounds and twelve shillings! Meat from the butcher went up by a third, while the other expenses were in line with earlier years. It must have been a bewildering time, and Richard’s diaires are full of little notes about how much corn was costing, the size of the harvest, and so on.

Ah well, let them eat cake ….. or, as James Gillray put it,  “Substitutes for Bread, or Right Honorables saving the loaves and dividing the Fishes”.


  4 Responses to “1800: September 17th, riots on account of the dearness of corn and bread”


    I assume that the sudden increase in the price of corn (and therefore bread) was due to the war with France, but I don’t know the details. Was it due to imports being cut off?

    For American readers, corn does not mean maize. Corn means any grain – especially wheat, but also barley, rye, etc.


      Thanks for reminding me about corn not being maize – sometimes I forget that we are “two nations divided by a common language”!
      Yes, the problem was mainly the war with France. I suspect part of the problem was caused by a succession of poor harvests – and the millers choosing to sell the corn, particularly barley, to make beer rather than bread. The introduction of Income Tax in 1800,levied at ten per cent, forced traders to put up their prices dramatically to offset the tax. Equally, perhaps the poor were inspired by the events in France, and America, to show their disapproval!


    And it didn’t get any better… Richard would have been horrified had he lived to see the introduction of the Corn Laws in 1815.


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