Not for the first nor the last time, the transition from war to peace produced serious economic difficulties. War-torn Europe was unable to buy British goods in the quantities expected and extensive commercial competition had to be faced from countries which had previously been swept from the seas by the British navy or restricted by the Napoleonic system of blockade. As a result Britain’s overseas trade in 1816 was only two-thirds what it had been in 1814. More seriously, those industries which had expanded to meet wartime needs were plunged into depression by the ending of government contracts. The iron industry was particularly badly hit. In Shropshire, 7,000 ironworkers were thrown out of work and the depression spread through the collieries and metalware industries of the Midlands. A similar story was repeated in the ironworks of South Wales, the shipyards of the Thames and the South Coast, as well as among many other trades. In addition, the coming of peace released 300,000 soldiers and sailors, who flooded the labour market, depressing wage levels when they found work and adding to the pool of unemployed when they did not. As a result poor rates rose alarmingly in both industrial and rural communities. To make matters worse, exports of grain and a poor harvest in 1816 pushed up the price of wheat from 77s. 4d. a quarter in August to over a 100s. in December. 1