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The long American grain invasion of Britain: market integration and the wheat trade between North America and Britain from the eighteenth century


  • Paul Sharp

    () (University of Copenhagen)


"The usual explanation for the American grain invasion of Britain in the last decades of the nineteenth century is that falling transportation costs caused the price gap between the US and the UK to fall, causing US prices to rise, UK prices to fall, and thus causing US supply and UK demand to increase. This paper documents that this was not the case. Falling per mile transportation costs simply permitted an expansion of frontier farming in the US, while the total cost of transporting wheat from the US production areas to the UK, and the price received by the average farmer, remained constant. What this process did allow, however, was a massive increase in US output, which was then available to supply the booming demand in the UK. The grain invasion was therefore not a response to increasing prices by American farmers, who in reality offered a perfectly elastic supply at the going price as practically unlimited supplies of land in the west were populated by immigrants."

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Sharp, 2008. "The long American grain invasion of Britain: market integration and the wheat trade between North America and Britain from the eighteenth century," Working Papers 8001, Economic History Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehs:wpaper:8001

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Paul Sharp, 2008. "Pushing Wheat: Why Supply Mattered for the American Grain Invasion of Britain in the Nineteenth Century," Discussion Papers 08-08, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dimitrios Theodoridis & Paul Warde & Astrid Kander, 2016. "Trade and overcoming land constraints in the British Industrial Revolution: the role of coal and cotton revisited," Working Papers 16027, Economic History Society.

    More about this item


    Grain invasion; wheat; globalization;

    JEL classification:

    • C5 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling
    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • N7 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services


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