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Brexit and food prices: the legacy of the Hungry Forties


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PHOTO: A Global Economics and History Forum event kindly sponsored by the Economic History Society

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Plenty of attention is being paid to the political and constitutional effects of Brexit, but what will its economic impact be on life’s most basic commodities? How did food prices inform the debate in the weeks and months leading up to the referendum, and how have they informed debate in the past? How have the spectres of want and hunger been invoked over the last century and a half in political contexts, and are we paying them enough attention now?

Debating these questions will be five historians and policy makers with combined expertise covering the period since the 1840s, the “Hungry Forties,” which live in political memory as the UK’s last serious sustained period of food poverty. The discussion is aimed at policy makers and practitioners working in the area of food poverty and food security, and aims to show how lessons from the past can inform decision-making today.

This roundtable will consist of four papers delivered by experts. There will be ample time for questions and discussion following each paper, and at the close of the afternoon.

CHAIR/COMMENTATOR: Professor Jim Tomlinson (Glasgow)

PANELISTS (all paper titles tbc)

Professor Anthony Howe (East Anglia) - The Hungry Forties and the rise of free trade England

Dr Sarah Richardson (Warwick) - Food is a feminist issue: the legacy of the Hungry Forties and women's rights in England

Lindsay Aqui (Queen Mary) - Butter, bacon and the British housewife: food prices and the 1975 Referendum

Geoff Tansey (Curator, Food Systems Academy; Chair, Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty) - Food: policy, (in)security, poverty, inequality, power, control and Brexit

The Global Economics and History Forum is run by Dr Marc-William Palen (Exeter), Dr David Thackeray (Exeter) and Dr Andrew Dilley (Aberdeen). The forum aims to bring together academics, business groups, policy makers and the public interested in how understandings of historical trade relations can inform current policy debates.

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With long-established offices in King's College London and the University of Cambridge, H&P is an expanding Partnership currently supported by 6 Higher Education Institutes: King’s College London, University of Bristol, University of Cambridge, The University of Edinburgh, University of Leeds, and The University of Sheffield.

We are the only project in the UK providing access to an international network of more than 500 historians with a broad range of expertise. H&P offers a range of resources for historians, policy makers and journalists.

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