Monthly Talk 4th October 2018


SPEAKER: Sean Magee

From time to time, Britain is convulsed in bitter and divisive argument. There was Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary Reform in the nineteenth, Home Rule for Ireland and Imperial Preference in both the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In all these cases families were divided, father against son, husband against wife, and political parties were split with bitterness and rancour.

This talk will look at one further example, the Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 in which the country, political parties and the population were divided and argument and vilification were the order of the day. Members of the audience will draw their own conclusions as to whether or not events today echo those of 1846.

Both sides of the protection debate had exaggerated its case with misleading forecasts; in fact, the effect on British agriculture was initially slight.

The talk will focus on the political and economic background and give examples of the argument and divisions from contemporary sources.


Sean Magee studied history at Oxford and spent most of his working life in overseas development with the Commonwealth Development Corporation, finally as Director for Corporate Relations. He had three years in Brussels with a pan-European group: European Development Finance Institutions, where he had invaluable experience of cooperation with the European Commission and its instrumentalities.

In retirement in Wiltshire he has continued an absorbing interest in history.