Comfortably Hungry
Comfortably Hungry
Bread or Blood

Bread or Blood

The Ely & Littleport food riot of 1816

In Episode 1 Sam discusses a nineteenth century food protest with freelance writer and illustrator Josh Sutton.

The early years of the nineteenth century were marked by social and economic upheaval caused by war, rising inflation and the loss of access to common land due to the The General Enclosure Act of 1801. As a result, many agricultural labourers during this period struggled to support themselves and their families and were forced to rely on parish relief to supplement their meagre earnings. Even this did not prevent huge numbers of people living in a state of poverty where hunger was a daily reality.

The Ely and Littleport riots took place in April and May 1816 as a response to hunger, poverty and unemployment. The protestors’ slogan was ‘bread or blood’ which was inscribed on their banners. They also brandished a loaf on a stick as they marched.

Hundreds of people were involved in this demonstration. For a short while it appeared their demands for higher wages would be met but their protest ended in tragedy. Listen to the podcast to find out what happened.

If you enjoy the podcast please don’t forget to rate it to help other listeners discover the Comfortably Hungry series.

Josh explores the Ely and Littleport riot and many other food protests in his book Food Worth Fighting For, (Prospect Books, 2016). Other titles by Josh include:

Outdoor Ovens – if you can’t stand the heat, go al fresco (Prospect Books, 2017)

Food from Childhood (Prospect Books, 2019)

For details on his other books visit or follow Josh on Twitter @BooksFez and Instagram @redfezbooks

This podcast features the song Bread or Blood by The Commoners Choir which is available to download here.

You can follow Sam on Twitter @sjfbilton and Instagram @mrssbilton or discover more about her work and books at

Further Reading

Besides Food Worth Fighting For you may find these other publications and websites of interest:

John Burnett - Plenty & Want: A Social History of Diet in England (1979)

William Cobbett - Rural Rides (1830)

JL & Barbara Hammond - The Village Labourer (1920)

Trussell Trust

Comfortably Hungry
Comfortably Hungry
Welcome to the comfortably hungry podcast where yesterday’s dinner is tomorrow’s history. If you’re a peckish person who is curious about the history of food and drink, then you’re in the right place. I’m Sam Bilton a food historian, writer and cook and each season I will be joined by some hungry guests to discuss a variety topics centred around a specific theme. As a former supper club host I’m always intrigued to know what people like to eat. So to whet everyone’s appetites I have invited my guests to contribute a virtual dish with them inspired by today’s topic.