The 'blood protest' in Thailand this week caught the headlines. Commentators have noted the world-wide symbolic and religious origins of such a ritualistic act of protest, although scholars of Thai culture disagree over the exact meaning of using human blood.

For me, it brings me to mind of the food riots in eighteenth and early nineteenth century England. Food riots attempted to assert the 'moral economy' or 'just price' against middlemen dealers in grain or other produce. A key symbol used by the rioters was a loaf of bread dipped in blood, which was placed on a stick and paraded round the market.
The agrarian disturbances in East Anglia in 1816 were known as the 'Bread and Blood' riots. Certain leaders of the Swing rioters in the 1830s identified themselves by wearing a scarf stained with blood.
Later types of protest used the symbol to great effect, such as demonstrations against the New Poor Law of 1834.


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