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Colonies in a globalizing economy 1815-1948

Department of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science
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  • Hc Economic History And Conditions
  • Hf Commerce
  • Jv Colonies And Colonization. Emigration And Immigration. International Migration
  • D204 Modern History
  • Economics
  • Political Science


‘Colonies in a Globalizing Economy 1815-1948’ Working Paper No. 08/04 Colonies in a Globalizing Economy 1815-1948 Patrick Karl O’Brien © Patrick O’Brien Department of Economic History London School of Economics December 2004 This paper was presented at the second GEHN Conference, Irvine, California (15-17th January, 2004) funded by a Leverhulme Trust Grant: “A Millennium of Material Progress” For more information about the participants and activities of GEHN, go to Department of Economic History London School of Economics Houghton Street London, WC2A 2AE Tel: +44 (0) 20 7955 7860 Fax: +44 (0) 20 7955 7730 Colonies in a Globalizing Economy 1815-1948 Patrick Karl O’Brien 1. International Trade for Colonial and Autonomous Regional Economies of the Third World 1815-1948 Under the international economic order which prevailed between the end of mercantilism and decolonisation (referred to in this essay as liberal imperialism) the costs of transacting, transporting and trading commodities, both within and across national and imperial frontiers declined sharply.1 To some discussable but un-measurable degree the opportunities to realize enhanced gains from trade also depended upon the political status of regional economies operating and interacting (through trade in commodities, capital flows, labour migration and the diffusion of useful knowledge) within a global economy – expanding along cycles of faster, slower and even negative rates of growth – but expanding, nevertheless, more rapidly than ever before. Contextualized within a key meta-narrative in global history concerned with imperialism the question addressed by this essay can be posed as follows: were the macro-economic benefits potentially

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