1) “Repeal of the Corn Laws is perhaps better seen as the victory of the masses over the agricultural oligarchy (oligarchy: power resting with a small number of people).” How does this extract present and validate this statement? 1) The Corn Laws was a system which placed tariffs and quotas on imported goods flowing into Britain. Britain wanted to achieve self-sufficiency and did not want to be dependent on imports, which is why the Corn Laws were imposed. These laws only took into account the interests of the agricultural estates, who formed a majority in the Parliament, and the interests of the industrialists were ignored.
These laws had an adverse impact on the British economy, as they forced the prices to be high, which led to an increase in the wages and a fall in the profits. Together with this, the exports of the goods manufactured in Britain were curtailed, since the countries from which Britain imported goods did not have money to buy these goods which Britain exported. A repeal of the Corn Laws was a victory for the masses because it took away the power from the agricultural elites, and now the interests of the industrial estates were also represented. There was an increase in the population, and a period of famine, and the needs of the whole population could not be met, which led the parliament to repeal the Corn Laws.
This meant that the interests of the masses were not taken into account and together with this there was an increase in exports from Britain. This led to the flow of money into Britain which gave a boost to the industries. Unemployment was reduced as a large number of people were employed and there was an increase in productivity and efficiency. This also enabled the masses and the industrialists to come to power and increase the wealth and power of the country. A repeal of the Corn Laws prevented food riots in the country and saved many people from dying.
2) “The Corn Laws illustrate the dynamic interaction of the state and the market”. Comment on this keeping in view the idea of state and markets covered in lectures. 2) The state and the market differ widely from each other. A state can be seen as any geographical area or an autonomous body, working in the national interests of a country, as opposed to the market, which is characterized by self-interest. These laws showed a shift from mercantilism to liberalism, in Britain. The Corn Laws only represented the interests of a small majority of people, who controlled the state and the market (mercantilism).
This meant that the state intervened in the market, to restrict imports and which forced producers to pay high wages which reduced their profits, and increased their cost. The industrialists were against these laws and followed a policy of liberalism which stated that the market should be free and there should be no intervention by the state in the running of the market. These laws were in line with the mercantilist view and had to be repealed. There was famine in Ireland and Britain could not meet the demand of the population. The policies of the sate were not effective during this time, and the laws were repealed. The state intervention in the market ended and the policy of mercantilism was not replaced with liberalism.
There was a boom in the economy and the markets for the exports in Britain expanded. There was a rise in exports, an increase in foreign earnings and a significant development was seen in the economy. Britain now came to be known as the “workshop of the world” due to the liberal policies which it had adopted. There was an increase in the wealth and power of Britain which many other countries saw as a threat. This is why, many countries adopted mercantilist policies to secure their wealth and power from Britain and increase their security. The Corn Laws are a clear example of how a shift from mercantilism (state) to liberalism (market) led to significant progress and development in the British economy.