Freedom and Trade

Freedom and Trade

Freedom and Trade

Freedom and Trade

Synopsis

This book examines the Corn Laws and their repeal, and explores the development of free trade ideas in Britain and around the world. The contributors are leading international experts in the field from Britain, Europe and the United States.

Excerpt

The three volumes of Freedom and Trade consist of papers arising from a multi-disciplinary international conference held at the University of Manchester in 1996 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. the papers, along with commentaries, are published in three volumes, each self-contained and each devoted to one or more of the disciplines represented at the conference. One volume, edited by Andrew Marrison, is devoted to Free Trade and its Reception 1815-1960, a second, edited by Gary Cook, to The Economics and Politics of International Trade and the third to The Legal and Moral Aspects of International Trade, for which the editors are Asif Qureshi, Hillel Steiner and Geraint Parry. Professor Frank Hahn’s plenary address to the conference appears in the volume on The Economics and Politics of International Trade. the volume on The Legal and Moral Aspects of International Trade also includes the papers of a panel of distinguished scholars representing each of the major disciplines involved who were invited to speak on ‘The Feasibility and Desirability of Global Free Trade’.

The repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 was an event of enormous significance in the history of international trade, in the development of institutions of international regulation, in the realignment of political parties and interests in Britain and in the emergence of new modes of political action through mass politics and single-issue interest groups. It remains an event which promptly conjures up the economic, political and moral sentiments surrounding the idea of free trade and its confrontation with the policy of protection. This significance can safely be affirmed even though, as so many chapters in these volumes attest, the nature of this significance remains hotly debated by leading world scholars in every intellectual discipline which is touched by this still controversial measure. Was the real impact of the repeal substantive or symbolic? It would clearly be mistaken to dismiss it as merely symbolic since symbols can be of the utmost importance not merely in history and politics but also in economics. No measure to regulate trade has ever given rise to so much contention at the time and since. It is also a suggestive indicator of the geopolitical situation at the time that this was not an international agreement such as gatt but a unilateral legislative action by one economically hegemonic state.

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