The conference ‘1846 Freedom and Trade 1996’ was convened to commemorate the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, an event of outstanding symbolic significance in the history of free trade. The history of the Corn Laws in England has been a long one and subject to three phases: • the early period prior to 1660 when most regulation was of trade within
the country and the emphasis was on protection of the consumer; • the period from 1660 to 1814 when the emphasis, if anything, was on
regulation of the exportation of grain and the aim was to maintain a balance between the interests of producers and consumers;
• the period from 1814 when the emphasis shifted firmly to the control of imports and the promotion of the interests of the landed classes.