Imagining Markets 3rd Workshop – Cambridge, 7 April

Cross-posted from Imagining Markets

Below are the details of the 3rd workshop of the Imagining Markets network. The network brings together scholars working in the fields of Imperial, European, and Asian studies, and scholars from cultural studies and economic studies, which have become increasingly separated branches of enquiry calling for reintegration. Working with and through a range of public policy intermediaries including History and Policy, the Churchill Archives Centre, and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies this project will provide policy-makers with an inter-disciplinary analysis of the long-term development of British overseas trade, which in turn will illuminate the diversity of cultural values and political perspectives that have, and continue to be, brought to bear in growing exports to key markets. There are still a handful of places available. If you wish to attend, please email Dr. David Thackeray.

Recital Room, Churchill College, Cambridge- 7 April

10.30- Introductions and welcome

10.45- Hao Gao (Exeter)- Imagining the Chinese Market: British Merchants in China in the early 1830s

This paper will examine a significant debate on China and the Chinese market held within the British mercantile community in the early 1830s. Occurring in the years before the East India Company’s monopoly over China trade was abolished in 1834, this debate has received much less attention than the Macartney embassy and the rise of the opium trade. This paper will show that, in order to suit their own economic interests, supporters of the EIC and the ‘private English (free traders)’ presented rival images of China and the China trade. Although neither side was genuinely interested in discovering the ‘real’ China, this competition in image-building was crucial to Britain’s public opinion about and policy towards China in the era leading to the First Opium War.

11.20- Anthony Howe (UEA)- Serpents in the Economic Paradise: The Projects and Politics of Monopolies, Restrictions, and Exclusions in World Trade, c.1880-1940

11.55-12.15- Q+A

12.15-1.15- Lunch

1.15-1.50- Stephen Tufnell (Oxford)- Managing Inter-Imperial Markets: The United States in Southern African Borderlands, 1886-1902

This paper centres on the relationship between the American diaspora and the US consular service. Its focus is on the expansion of American trade in mine equipment, foodstuffs, and mules with the region and the attempts of the American diaspora to manage the industrial and commercial opportunities presented to them in these imperial borderlands. Using records from the United States’ consuls in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Kimberley, and the personal papers of leading American expatriates in the region, the paper reimagines the inter-imperial relationship between the British and American Empires in Southern Africa as one encapsulated by the concept of “borderlands”.

1.50-2.25- Marc-William Palen (Exeter)- The Feminist Vision of Free Trade Internationalism

This paper takes a long look at the international political economy of feminist peace activism. In doing so, it uncovers how feminist peace reformers counted among the most outspoken advocates for free trade internationalism, envisioning it as the necessary political economic foundation for obtaining world peace.

2.25-2.45- Q+A

2.45-3.00- Tea

3.00-3.35- David Thackeray and Richard Toye (Exeter)- From ‘Empire Shopping’ to ‘Buying British’: the public politics of consumption, 1945-63

This paper traces post-war shifts in the politics of consumption, showing how government and civil society groups articulated competing consumer appeals of Empire/Commonwealth preference, economic nationalism and Europeanism at a time of geo-political uncertainty. Addressing the debates surrounding the negotiation of the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947, the paper considers why this very important development – which involved scaling back imperial preference –generated little of the controversy that surrounded trade in the first decades of the twentieth century. It then explores how decolonization and the turn to Europe affected the discourse of the ‘citizen-consumer’. It is our hypothesis that the period as a whole was one in which the public representation of the idealised consumer emerged as a figure with loyalties which were now primarily national rather than imperial, or post-imperial.

3.35-4.10- David Clayton (York)- Defending Chinese Capitalism: Hong Kong Business Groups, the Colonial State and Commercial Public Relations, 1950-1970

During a period of extra-ordinarily rapid export-orientated industrialisation, trade associations and the colonial state in Hong Kong invested heavily in commercial propaganda. This was a defensive response to overseas criticism of Chinese business ethics, a strategy deployed by manufacturers in high-income markets in North-West Europe and North America unable to compete on price with exports of textiles, clothing and cheap consumer durables from Hong Kong. These activities were wasteful, a movement of resources from Hong Kong to public relations consultants, journalists and politicians overseas, and generated tensions between business elites and the colonial bureaucrats. This paper studies these economic and political effects and considers the cultural legacy of this propaganda war about a Chinese variant of capitalism. It focuses on how Hong Kong agencies protected the commercial reputation of a British colony in the UK, Hong Kong’s ‘home’ market.

4.10-4.30- Q&A

4.30- Concluding discussion and wrap-up.

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