Hunger on the Home Front - A satyrical document from the Enoch Wood scrapbook

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Date:7th of March 1812


In times of war, the fortunes of both tradespeople and townspeople could nose-dive - and in 1812 the Potteries were feeling the intense strain of Britain's long war with Napoleon's France.

Soup kitchens were now being set up in Burslem to feed soups made from bonemeal to the poor and long-term unemployed.

Napoleon's continental system

The French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had established a 'continental system' which prevented British goods (including pottery) from being shipped into French-controlled ports - and this at a time when most of Europe was under French control!

In 1812, the situation for Burslem's poor was already becoming desperate - no exports meant no jobs, and three bad harvests in three years had raised the cost of food to unaffordable levels.

A propaganda victory for Napoleon?

This document mixes sarcasm with seriousness, and delivers a patriotic appeal to withdraw the starvation-diet soup kitchens:

Chemists have discovered, that by means of a Digester, Bones make a Soup much more nutritive than Flesh; and you, Mr. Chairman, and other well-disposed Gentlemen, have very laudably availed yourselves of this discovery... Only reflect... what use Bonaparte may make of your resolutions: "The People of England, (he may say), once so well fed on Roast Beef and Plum Pudding, are now reduced to the necessity of subsisting on bones! and all this the effect of our Decrees against her Commerce!"

How did this document survive?

Pottery manufacturer Enoch Wood kept this document, printed by Albutt and Gibbs of Hanley, and it is now among the collections of Stoke-on-Trent Museums.


Link to this resource

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