Stealing Grain from the Poor

The 18th century saw a huge number of food riots, commonly blamed on food shortages, but really due to farmers hoarding of shipping the grain abroad while those who worked on the farms, brought the harvest in went hungry.This is from News from the English Countryside 1750-1850 from Woodbridge, Suffolk, April 1772

“It is impossible to describe the distresses of the Poor n this part of the Country, fo want of Bread Corn; it is not occasioned by a Bad Harvest, for we had a very good one and well got in and many farmers have now 2 years’ crops by them, but hey will not bring it to Market, saying they can make a greater advantage of it by sending it to London, but it is strongly suspected that, instead thereof, it goes to feed our inveterate Enemies the French and 3 Days ago we were confirmed in our Opinion by some Words let drop by a Sailor belonging to a vessel, which lay in the small creek within 4 miles of this town, to take in Corn, that they were bound to Dunkirk; upon which a Number of People assembled, went to the Place where the Vessel lay, seized all the Wheat which they divided amongst themselves, and then set Fire to the Vessel; had they not been in such a hurry, they might have met with a larger Booty as several waggons were on the Road, loaded with Corn to put  on board, and about a score of fine fat sheep. The master and crew made off, and have not since been heard of. ”

England was not at war with the French at the time, but hunger is hunger. This shows how far farming had come from ensuring the needs of the poor, at a fair price.

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