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Formed in 1839, the Anti-Corn Law League was one of the most important campaigns to introduce the ideas of economic liberalism into mainstream political discourse in Britain. Seeking the abolition of a tariff barrier that buttressed the economic and political power of the land-owning aristocracy, the League presented itself as the vanguard of the emerging industrial middle class in Victorian Britain. Its aspiration for free trade played a crucial role in defining the agenda of 19th-century liberalism and shaping the modern British state. The League's faith in the free market has had resonances in the debates debates over public policy in Britain during recent years, and it also set the pattern for individuals and groups which have stood outside the Establishment articulating alternative visions of society. This study of the Anti-Corn Law League makes use of recent methodological developments in social history.
Paul A. Pickering is postdoctoral fellow at the Reseach School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. Alex Tyrrell is senior lecturer at LaTrobe Univeristy. Alex Tyrrell is senior lecturer at LaTrobe Univeristy.