Revenge of the Curds: Remembering the Great Nottingham Cheese Riot of 1766

On Oct. 2, 1766, the citizens of Nottingham, England, were attending the annual Goose Fair, where they were purchasing livestock and a variety of foods from farmers. That year, however, the fair was different. A poor harvest across Europe had led to food shortages, which led to rapidly rising prices on popular goods. When residents who attended the fair saw that the price of cheese had skyrocketed — virtually doubling from the previous week — they became upset. Compounding matters were cheese gougers who had arrived to snatch up the cheese and take it back to their cities for resale. Between the high prices and cheese hoarding, the fair quickly turned chaotic. Cheese enthusiasts began physically seizing cheese, looting merchants, and even swarming a cargo boat. Police were called, but that, too, was ineffectual. Finally, the military was called out to control the crowd. After things quieted down, cheese dealers began traveling with security.