Merriman (thanks again Open Yale and iTunes U — such a shame that there isn’t a recording of Spence‘s Modern Chinese History course) draws a distinction between “grain riots” and “riots over high food prices,” with the former dying out in France in the mid-1850s and the latter being a more modern phenomenon. Grain riots began in the countryside not when prices hit their peak but when villagers and townspeople saw merchants taking grain out of their community to be sold elsewhere (i.e. cities). He talks about the details of such protests, whether they originate from a sense of justice or from other reasons, and I thought that he would ignore the greater political implications – but he comes through. The state is interested in maintaining a steady supply of bread in the cities, since unrest there is what leads to kings being beheaded. That is, the regime is willing to tolerate the occasional grain riot over there to prevent barricades here. Sounds familiar.
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