Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Corn, Crime and Piety

Just doing some background reading while on a trip. I realized that there are a few things that need to be brought out for Charlotte.

  • Corn Laws. The book is partially set in rural England in 1814-1815. The rents farmers paid were very high, but the prices they could get for their corn (wheat and oats, not maize) were very low. Except when the had a crop failure, and then they had nothing to sell. The corn laws were an early attempt at price supports, where the price of corn was set. Unfortunately this meant that the price of bread was set too high for most people to afford it. Unlike pre-revolutionary France, Parliament didn't tell the commoners to eat brioche instead. None the less the bill, the riots and the rents would be a major concern.
  • Crime. Nothing like modern police, a system of unpaid appointed magistrates, and a plethora of homeless beggars. Unlike today, where it would be relatively safe to wander around London in the evening, you might have been taking your life in your hands. Highwaymen were reasonably common, and people would have been careful about them. However, without sensational 24/7 TV news, I get the distinct impression people weren't scared all the time.
  • Piety. Hannah More and the evangelicals opened and encouraged the opening of many schools for the indigent and poor. One of the characters in the book is thinking of doing the same thing, and frequently has pious impulses that could have been influenced by her. Like today's evangelicals, at least in the US, Ms. More was against teaching science and mathematics. Instead she wanted to teach just enough reading that her students could read the bible and learn to be content with their place in society. I can't see this character accepting that idea as he's a 'self-made' man, more along the lines of Horatio Alger than a full acolyte of Hannah's.