Just caught up with a fascinating NPR interview with Richard Barnett, author of The Book of Gin. What struck me particularly was a section on the origins of the gin boom in England. Barnett tied it to The Glorious Revolution, and William of Orange coming to the throne. William needed to keep the land-owning aristos sweet. One way to do that was to keep the price of grain high, and one way to do that was to deregulate distilling. That, as Barnett explained, opened up a new market for grain, which kept grain prices high, even as it made gin cheaper and cheaper.
So the aristos were presumably happy enough to keep supporting King Billy, and there NPR left it to wander down Gin Lane and beyond.
But the story sounds an awful lot like the contemporary story of mandated maize biofuel. That too opens up a new market that keeps prices high, and, some say, is keeping food prices high too.
So here’s my question: did the demand for grain for distilling have any impact on food prices in the 18th century?