Imperialism and Free Trade Essay

Imperialism and Free Trade Essay

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Imperialism and Free Trade

Like many terms used with the study of empire, the term Imperialism is
considerably loaded, with many negative connotations. Modern
political understanding of the word often suggests an illegitimate
desire to extend one’s power or authority for reasons of
self-advantage, be it national or individual. The British Empire is
often considered to be imperialistic, largely due to its heavy
reliance on mercantilist economic practices to sustain its hold
throughout the world. The protectionist ways of the empire could
arguably be seen as the definition and very nature of the empire
itself with acts like the navigation acts maintaining rigid monopolies
in areas of British Imperial rule. However in 1840’s a shift away
from mercantile policy towards free trade policies and ‘laissez-faire’
can be seen. Gestures such as the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 and
more significantly the repeal of the Navigation Act in 1849 can be
seen as marking a new phase in the history of the British Empire. It
would seem that the very act which symbolically cemented the British
Empire’s Imperial status was now responsible for marking a phase in
its history whereby Empire and Imperialism were unpleasant terms.

This supposed shift in economic policy was by no means sudden.
Britain affection for the principles of ‘laissez-faire’ and free trade
were being slowly cultivated as early as the 1820’s. Key thinkers
like Adam Smith embraced free trade as being the foundation for which
economic and social success should be based. Empire is “a project
which has cost, which continues to cost, and which, if pursued in the
same way as it h...


... middle of paper ...


...o. 2, Aug., 1968, pp
296-306

4. R. L. Schuyler, The Fall of the Old Colonial System: A Study in
British Free Trade 1770-1870, London, 1945

5. P. D. Curtin, Imperialism, New York 1972


---------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] R. L. Schuyler in, The Fall of the Old Colonial System: A Study in
British Free Trade 1770-1870, quoting Adam Smith, p 54

[2] J. Gallagher & R. Robinson, The Imperialism of Free Trade, The
Economic History Review, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1953, p 1

[3] Ibid., p 3

[4] Ibid., p 3

[5] Ibid., p 4

[6] Gallagher & Robinson, p 4

[7] Ibid., p 4

[8] B Semmel, The Rise of Free Trade Imperialism, London, p 206

[9] P. D. Curtin, Imperialism, New York 1972, p 210

[10] Gallagher & Robinson, p 13

[11] Gallagher and Robinson, 4

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