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

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