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Globalization revisited: Market integration and the wheat trade between North America and Britain from the eighteenth century


  • Sharp, Paul
  • Weisdorf, Jacob


We take up again the famous case of the trade in wheat between the United States and the United Kingdom. This is often used to illustrate the so-called first era of globalization at the end of the nineteenth century. This study, however, finds evidence of transatlantic commodity market integration already during the eighteenth century. Using price data for wheat in America and Britain, our findings support both that price differentials were quite small for many years, and that prices adjusted to the law-of-one-price equilibrium. This process was, however, continuously being interrupted by ‘exogenous’ events, such as trade policy, war and politics. In particular, the French and Napoleonic wars and the subsequent high levels of protection in the UK meant that markets were almost always disintegrated until the repeal of the British Corn Laws in 1846.

Suggested Citation

  • Sharp, Paul & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2013. "Globalization revisited: Market integration and the wheat trade between North America and Britain from the eighteenth century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 88-98.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:50:y:2013:i:1:p:88-98 DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2012.08.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Sharp, Paul & Uebele, Martin, 2013. "Rural Infrastructure and Agricultural Market Integration in the United States: A long run perspective," Discussion Papers of Business and Economics 10/2013, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Business and Economics.
    2. Theodoridis, Dimitrios, 2017. "The ecological footprint of early-modern commodities Coefficients of land use per unit of product," Göteborg Papers in Economic History 21, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economic History.
    3. Gema Aparicio & Vicente Pinilla, 2015. "The dynamics of international trade in cereals, 1900-1938," Documentos de Trabajo de la Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria 1504, Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria.
    4. Chilosi, David & Federico, Giovanni, 2015. "Early globalizations: The integration of Asia in the world economy, 1800–1938," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 1-18.
    5. Giovanni Federico & Antonio Tena-Junguito, 2017. "A tale of two globalizations: gains from trade and openness 1800–2010," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 153(3), pages 601-626, August.
    6. Brunt, Liam & Cannon, Edmund, 2013. "Integration in the English wheat market 1770-1820," CEPR Discussion Papers 9504, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Michel Fouquin & Jules Hugot, 2016. "Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations," VNIVERSITAS ECONÓMICA 015130, UNIVERSIDAD JAVERIANA - BOGOTÁ.
    8. 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.

    More about this item


    Grain invasion; Wheat; Globalization; American colonial trade;

    JEL classification:

    • N7 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services
    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F5 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy
    • N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation
    • N5 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development


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