IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

American tariff policy and the British alkali industry, 1880-1905


  • Varian, Brian


Until the late nineteenth century, the British alkali industry enjoyed a colossal export market in the United States. Yet, as several scholars have already noted, the highly protectionist Dingley Tariff of 1897 caused a precipitous and irreversible decline in the volume of British alkali exports to the United States. Drawing upon an abundance of textual evidence, this study argues that, in addition to the climactic Dingley Tariff, previous American tariff acts in 1883, 1890, and 1894 also exerted a pronounced influence on the volume of British alkali exports to the United States. Further corroborating this claim is a regression analysis that employs, as an explanatory variable, newly constructed annual estimates of the ad valorem equivalent tariff that the United States imposed upon alkali imports from Britain. Approaching the British alkali industry from a microeconomic standpoint, this study also argues that one particular British alkali firm, Brunner, Mond & Co., mitigated its financial exposure to American tariff policy by acquiring, in 1887, a minority shareholding in a nascent American alkali firm, the Solvay Process Company. Profits from Brunner’s shareholding in the Solvay Process Company substantially offset the profits that Brunner, Mond & Co. lost as the result of its diminished alkali exports to the United States. The other dominant British alkali firm, the United Alkali Company, did not fare so well.

Suggested Citation

  • Varian, Brian, 2014. "American tariff policy and the British alkali industry, 1880-1905," Economic History Working Papers 56334, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:56334

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Open access version.
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bertrams,Kenneth & Coupain,Nicolas & Homburg,Ernst, 2013. "Solvay," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107024809, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    alkali; chemicals; tariffs; trade; Britain; United States; nineteenth century;

    JEL classification:

    • N61 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N63 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N71 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N73 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N81 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N83 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History - - - Europe: Pre-1913

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:56334. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (LSERO Manager on behalf of EH Dept.). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.