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The Politics of HungerProtest, Poverty and Policy in England, c. 1750-c. 1840$
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Carl J. Griffin

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781526145628

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7765/9781526145635

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Food riots and the languages of hunger

Food riots and the languages of hunger

(p.25) 1 Food riots and the languages of hunger
The Politics of Hunger

Carl J. Griffin

Manchester University Press

Rather than questioning the nutritional deficiencies of subsistence protestors or asking being hungry what do people do, this chapter asks how hunger as an idea, a discourse, was mobilised by poor and the rulers of Britain alike. Hunger it suggests was a constant spectral presence, something mortally feared by the poor who wondered how they might feed their families and by the rich as the possible trigger for disorder and sedition. This complex interplay – much like E.P. Thompson’s ‘moral economy’ – was understood by both sides, the poor mobilizing the fear of hunger as likely to have mortal consequences for not only themselves but also the rich in threatening letters and as threats made during food riots; the rulers of local communities acting preemptively in the emergence of relief funds and in developing new forms of surveillance.

Keywords:   Food riots, Discourse of starvation, Moral economy, Popular protest, Popular politics, Hunger

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