Protectionism 100 years ago helped ignite a world war. Could it happen again?

A pro-Republican cartoon from 1900 depicting “the white light of protection” shining down upon America’s newly acquired empire at the dawn of the 20th century. American Economist, 28 Dec. 1900.

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

[Editor’s note: Below is from my editorial just published in the Washington Post‘s series “Made by History,” a remarkable new initiative for historians to engage with current affairs, co-edited by Nicole Hemmer (@pastpunditry) and Brian Rosenwald (@brianros1).]

The liberal economic order that defined the post-1945 era is disintegrating.

Globalization’s foremost champions have become the first to signal the retreat in the wake of the Great Recession. Economic nationalism, historically popular in times of economic crisis, is once again on the rise in Britain, France and the United States. We are witnessing a return to the antagonistic protectionist politics that defined a bygone era that ended with World War I — suggesting that today’s protectionist revival threatens not just the global economy, but world stability and peace. Continue reading “Protectionism 100 years ago helped ignite a world war. Could it happen again?”