Researchers often seem to spend copious amounts of time discovering the bleedingly obvious. Today, it’s been reported that a link has been found between high food prices and social unrest.
Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. I hadn’t realised the connection between famine, high food prices and the French Flour War of 1775.
Nor had I connected the Stalybridge Riot of 1863 with non-existent incomes and high food prices, although I suppose the demand for “money and bread” should have been a clue.
And I should have realised the rioters at Youghal in 1846 were prompted by famine and seeing food they couldn’t afford shipped to England.
It’s just as well we have researchers to discover those connections! (Don’t worry, I do know researchers do have their uses but sometimes they make me laugh.)
Seeking simple explanations for the Arab spring uprisings that have swept through Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya, is clearly foolish amidst entangled issues of social injustice, poverty, unemployment and water stress. But asking “why precisely now?” is less daft, and a provocative new study proposes an answer: soaring food prices.
Furthermore, it suggests there is a specific food price level above which riots and unrest become far more likely. That figure is 210 on the UN FAO’s price index: the index is currently at 234, due to the most recent spike in prices which started in the middle of 2010.