Readers of the following story who have not yet arrived at middle age are asked to bear in mind that, in the days recalled by the tale, the home Corn Trade, on which so much of the action turns, had an importance that can hardly be realized by those accustomed to the sixpenny loaf of the present date, and to the present indifference of the public to harvest weather.
The incidents narrated arise mainly out of three events, which chanced to range themselves in the order and at or about the intervals of time here given, in the real history of the town called Casterbridge and the neighbouring country. They were the sale of a wife by her husband, the uncertain harvests which immediately preceded the repeal of the Corn Laws, and the visit of a Royal personage to the aforesaid part of England.
Richard Cobden  and John Bright , leaders of the Anti-Corn-Law League , championed free trade without compromise. Their tireless and courageous efforts resulted in 1846 in the repeal of the British corn laws – tariffs on imported grain that cruelly raised the price of food, and especially of bread, for ordinary men, women, and children in Britain.
Free trade and free markets save lives.