The persistence of the discourse of starvation in the protests of the poor
in The politics of hunger
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The bitter repression of the national wave of riots during the subsistence crises of 1795–6 and 1800–1 led to the end of the food rioting tradition. Only in the ‘Hungry Forties’ was hunger ‘rediscovered’, the ‘struggle over the representation of scarcity’, as Peter Gurney has put it, being particularly acute in the politicking of both Chartism and the Anti-Corn Law League. So the received understanding goes. This chapter questions this position and analyses the ways in which the discourses detailed in chapter one persisted beyond 1801 and into the 1840s. In so doing it analyses the claims made in threatening letters, legal defences and claims made to (and quarrels with) poor law officials, as well as in popular political forms including speeches, broadsides and ballads, and political journalism.

The politics of hunger

Protest, poverty and policy in England, c. 1750–c. 1850

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