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From the Corn Laws to Free Trade: Interests, Ideas, and Institutions in Historical Perspective

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  • Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey

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    (London School of Economics)

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    Abstract

    The repeal of Britain's Corn Laws in 1846--one of the most important economic policy decisions of the nineteenth century--has long intrigued and puzzled political scientists, historians, and economists. Why would a Conservative prime minister act against his own party's interests? The Conservatives entered government in 1841 with a strong commitment to protecting agriculture; five years later, the Conservative Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel presided over repeal of the protectionist Corn Laws, violating party principles and undercutting the economic interests of the land-owning aristocracy. Only a third of Conservative members of Parliament supported the repeal legislation and within a month of repeal, Peel's government fell. The Conservatives remained out of power for decades. In this definitive book, Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey examines the interacting forces that brought about the abrupt beginning of Britain's free-trade empire. Using a wide variety of methodological tools to measure both qualitative and quantitative data (including computer-assisted content analysis of thousands of pages of parliamentary debates), Schonhardt-Bailey concludes that economic interests provided the momentum behind repeal, a momentum that overshadowed almost all else. Indeed, as part of a broader momentum of democratic reform, these same interests, left unsatisfied, may easily have snowballed into revolution--as Sir Robert Peel and others feared. But interests alone did not explain why reform rather than revolution emerged in mid-nineteenth century Britain. In order to resolve more fully the long-standing puzzle of repeal, Schonhardt-Bailey traces the overlapping and intertwined forces of interest, ideas, and institutions.

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    Bibliographic Info

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    This book is provided by The MIT Press in its series MIT Press Books with number 0262195437 and published in 2006.

    Volume: 1
    Edition: 1
    ISBN: 0-262-19543-7
    Handle: RePEc:mtp:titles:0262195437

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    Web page: http://mitpress.mit.edu

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    Cited by:
    1. Ben Zissimos, 2014. "A Theory of Trade Policy Under Dictatorship and Democratization," Discussion Papers 1403, Exeter University, Department of Economics.
    2. Anderson, Kym & Rausser, Gordon & Swinnen, Johan, 2013. "Political economy of public policies : insights from distortions to agricultural and food markets," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6433, The World Bank.
    3. Uebele, Martin, 2011. "National and international market integration in the 19th century: Evidence from comovement," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 226-242, April.
    4. Scott Feld & Samuel Merrill & Bernard Grofman, 2014. "Modeling the effects of changing issue salience in two-party competition," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 158(3), pages 465-482, March.
    5. Antonio Tena Junguito & Markus Lampe & Felipe Tâmega, 2012. "How much trade liberalization was there in the world before and after Cobden-Chevalier?," Working Papers in Economic History wp12-02, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Historia Económica e Instituciones.
    6. Cousins, Mel, 2011. "The Voting Behaviour of the Irish parliamentary party on social issues in the House of Commons 1881-90," MPRA Paper 30102, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Nye, John V.C., 2009. "Political Economy of Anglo-French Trade, 1689-1899:Agricultural Trade Policies, Alcohol Taxes and War," Agricultural Distortions Working Paper 50295, World Bank.
    8. Daron Acemoglu & Suresh Naidu & Pascual Restrepo & James A. Robinson, 2013. "Democracy, Redistribution and Inequality," NBER Working Papers 19746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Javier San Julian Arrupe (Universitat de Barcelona), 2012. "Economic ideas and tax policy: The introduction of progressivity in tax systems in Western Europe. The cases of France and Spain," Working Papers in Economics 285, Universitat de Barcelona. Espai de Recerca en Economia.
    10. Sebastian Galiani & Gustavo Torrens, 2013. "Autocracy, Democracy and Trade Policy," NBER Working Papers 19321, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Martin, Nona & Storr, Virgil Henry, 2012. "Talk changes things: The implications of McCloskey's Bourgeois Dignity for historical inquiry," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 787-791.
    12. Broadberry, Stephen & Gardner, Leigh, 2013. "Africa's Growth Prospects in a European mirror: a Historical Perspective," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 172, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    13. Benjamin Zissimos, 2011. "Social Conflict and the Stolper-Samuelson Theorem," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 1109, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    14. Galiani, Sebastian & Torrens, Gustavo, 2014. "Autocracy, democracy and trade policy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1), pages 173-193.
    15. Anderson, Kym, 2009. "Political Economy of Distortions to Agricultural Incentives: Introduction and Summary," Agricultural Distortions Working Paper 50306, World Bank.
    16. Salvadori, Neri & Signorino, Rodolfo, 2013. "The Malthus versus Ricardo 1815 Corn Laws Controversy: An appraisal," MPRA Paper 50534, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. repec:cge:warwcg:171 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Ogilvie, Sheilagh & Carus, A.W., 2014. "Institutions and Economic Growth in Historical Perspective," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 8, pages 403-513 Elsevier.

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