The Free Trade of Ideas: Spreading the Classical Liberal Gospel of Richard Cobden and the Anti-Corn Law League
One of the central concepts of classical liberal economic thought is the superiority of free trade over protectionism. The key historical event leading to the dissemination of this idea was the activity of Richard Cobden and the Anti-Corn Law League in Britain in the 1840s. This paper explores the ways in which Cobden and the Anti-Corn Law League were received on the Continent, and the relative reception of free trade ideas in France, through Frédéric Bastiat and later the Anglo-French Treaty of Commerce in 1861; in Italy, through Francesco Ferrara and Camillo Cavour; and in Germany through John Prince Smith. A preliminary conclusion about the role of general levels of economic knowledge in the receptivity of free trade ideas precedes suggestions for further research.
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