Ten economic protests that changed history

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and tea party rallies are the latest of more than 200 years of economic protest that have brought down governments and changed the course of nations. The most far-reaching ones aren't always the biggest or even successful initially (one of our Top 10 started with a confiscated vegetable cart). Sometimes it's hard to tell if they're more about politics or economics. Here is our list of 10 of the world's most important economic protests. Let us know your picks in the comment section.

1. Boston Tea Party – 1773

National Archives and Records Administration
Copy of an 1846 lithograph of "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor" by Sarony & Major. Boston citizens' protest against Britain's tax on tea became an iconic event and galvanized protests by the colonists, which eventually led to the American Revoluion.

In 1767, the British government passed the Townshend Acts, imposing taxes on several products imported to British colonies. The colonists refused to pay, angered not only by the financial burden, but also that they were expected to pay taxes imposed by a parliament that didn’t represent them. The British repealed the taxes, except for the tax on tea.

Although tea was a staple of colonial life, paying the tax implicitly meant acknowledging the British government’s right to tax the colonists. In 1773, when tea arrived in New York and Philadelphia, the East India Company ships were not allowed to dock.

In Boston, three ships successfully entered the harbor, infuriating locals. Thousands of people filled the wharf, and during a mass meeting it was decided the ships should leave without collecting any taxes. They were informed that the ships would not leave without payment, so later that evening a group of between 50 and 200 men, some dressed up as Mohawk Indians, boarded the ships. It took three hours, but the colonists threw 342 barrels of Darjeeling tea – nearly 42 tons – into the sea.

In retaliation, London soon passed a series of strict measures of control over colonists, which they called the Intolerable Acts. This included closing the port of Boston, and was a direct impetus to the American Revolution.

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