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Entrepreneurial Politics in Mid-Victorian Britain$
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G. R. Searle

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198203575

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198203575.001.0001

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Class Politics in the 1840s

Class Politics in the 1840s

(p.17) 1 Class Politics in the 1840s
Entrepreneurial Politics in Mid-Victorian Britain

G. R. Searle

Oxford University Press

The Anti-Corn Law League, at least in its inception, was very much a ‘business organization’, the only major political movement in Britain to have been launched from within a Chamber of Commerce. Its spokesman Richard Cobden was a calico printer, and the comrades-in-arms with whom he was associated in this venture were nearly all of them successful Lancastrian businessmen. Cobden argued that a repeal of the Corn Laws would benefit both manufacturing and agriculture. To the manufacturers who supported the Anti-Corn Law League, the landowners constituted ‘the enemy’. Many sections of landed society felt contempt for the northern mill-owners, a sentiment that found expression in the ‘factory movement’. While the class politics of the 1840s were more complicated than has been admitted so far, it shaped the politics of the next few decades. For what had happened was the triumph of free trade, but the defeat of the free traders.

Keywords:   Anti-Corn Law League, Britain, Richard Cobden, free trade, Corn Laws, manufacturers, agriculture, landowners, factory movement, class politics

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