Imagining Markets: Conceptions of Empire/Commonwealth, Europe and China in Britain’s economic future since the 1870s

AHRC Network September 2014 – August 2016

The global economy is currently undergoing long-lasting, structural change, with shifting trading patterns, the rapid rise of new regions of economic growth, and tightening relations between countries. Yet this is not the first time that globalisation has redefined power flows in the international economy. The proposed network led by David Thackeray, Richard Toye and Andrew Thompson aims to provide a vital and yet noticeably lacking bridge between historical and contemporary ways of thinking about Britain’s future global economic orientation. It will illuminate the different ways in which overseas markets have, at various times in the past, been imagined, evaluated and conceptualised, as well as the implications and consequences of past practice for the way we view the possibilities and potential of these very same markets today.

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 interdisciplinary analysis of the long-term development of British overseas trade, which will illuminate the diversity of cultural values and political perspectives that have, and continue to be, brought to bear in growing exports to Europe, the Commonwealth and China.

Events will include a series of three research workshops focusing on these three key markets, and a policy seminar in London exploring the implications of the project's findings for our understandings of Britain's networks of trade and investment with the Commonwealth. Public policy perspectives from the recent past will be fed into the final Cambridge workshop via a witness seminar, and research findings will be explored via a series of postgraduate events and public policy papers.