Daily History Q&A: The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade

Clinton Sandvick
Daily History

Cross-posted from Daily History

Marc-William Palen’s new book
The ‘Conspiracy’ of Free Trade: The Anglo-American Struggle over Empire and Economic Globalisation, 1846-1896 is relevant not only to historians of imperialism, capitalism, and economics, but to the 2016 American presidential primary election. Once again, free trade has become a central campaign issue during a presidential election. While Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have discussed the consequences of free trade, they have provided very little historical context to help voters understand the rationale behind free trade. Palen’s book explores a world when extreme American economic nationalism came into conflict with Britain’s advocacy of global free trade. Palen’s book focuses “upon the ideological debates surrounding free trade and protectionism” within the United States and Great Britain.[1]

Palen is a historian at the University of Exeter. He has written extensively on globalization and free trade for the New York Times, the Australian, The Conversation, Globalist Magazine, History News Network and many others. Palen has recently published two outstanding articles (‘Free trade is once again tearing apart the Republican Party‘ and ‘Trump’s anti-trade tirades recall GOP’s protectionist past‘) explaining how Donald Trump’s economic policies echo previous GOP stances on free trade. He is also the current editor for Imperial & Global Forum. You can follow Palen on Twitter at @MWPalen.

Here is the interview with Marc-William Palen.

If someone asked you to quickly summarize your book, what would be your 2-minute elevator version?

Briefly, The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade provides a new interpretation of Anglo-American imperialism and economic integration from the mid to late 19th century. The issue of free trade dominated the era’s political scene like no other. But whereas Britain turned to free trade as a national policy and ideology by mid-century, the United States turned to economic nationalism. The book thus argues that Anglo-American economic globalization was driven by this political and ideological conflict between free trade and economic nationalism from the 1840s onward.

Continue reading “Daily History Q&A: The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade”