Was Rye Ever the Ordinary Food of the English?
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact email@example.com. IN the ECONOMIC JOURNAL for September, 1921, Sir William Ashley has published an article in which he gives reasons for disagreeing with the opinion of my
... the late Professor Thorold Rogers, that " from the earliest times wheat has been the principal grain on which the English have lived," and suggests tentatively that " during the Middle Ages, and long after, rye was the ordinary food of the labouring population. . . Wheat was at first a luxury food for the landlord class. From them it was adopted by the merchants of the towns and by the more sedentary and more skilled craftsmen. . . . For the mass of the people, both in the towns and in the country, there was hardly ever, and hardly anywhere, a complete change over from rye to wheat, the transition was effected by the use of a mixturemaslin-of rye and wheat . . . in which in the course of ages the wheat proportion tended more and more to preponderate." In support of his contention, Sir William Ashley has adopted two lines of argument, (1) A criticism of my father's scholarship and accuracy; (2) the selection of a number of quotations and references tending to show that rye was always considered an important article of food. No exception can be taken to the tone of Sir William Ashley's examination of my father's views, and I acknowledge with gratitude his handsome appreciation of the monumental character of his work, but as he admits that my father's writings " serve as the authority for much of what is now being taught as history to working-class audiences," it is more than a matter of private interest to ascertain whether the one authority or the other is more correct. I venture, therefore, to advance certain reasons which may lead Sir William Ashley to revise his judgment. In the first place it should be pointed out that there is no true antithesis between the two propositions. My father was speaking of the usual food of the English nation as a whole; Sir William Ashley admits that the landlord class, and subsequently the merchants and skilled craftsmen, ate This content downloaded from 188.8.131.52 on Fri, 26 Dec 2014 09:24:08 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions THE ECONOMIC JOURNAL [MARCH