New book explores how Britain, the US and the EU have built an Economic Empire

Posted by pm357 at Oct 08, 2018 04:30 PM |
An interview with Dr Chris Grocott about his new book ‘The Continuing Imperialism of Free Trade’
New book explores how Britain, the US and the EU have built an Economic Empire

Dr Chris Grocott

A new book entitled ‘The Continuing Imperialism of Free Trade’, co-edited by Dr Chris Grocott, Lecturer in Management and Economic History at ULSB, has been published by Routledge. The book revisits and updates one of the hottest and longest running debates in the study of imperialism – John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson’s essay ‘The Imperialism of Free Trade’. The book explores how, amongst others, Britain, the US and the European Union have reconfigured the global economy to suit their interests.

Dr Grocott explains what his book is about and why you should read it:

What is the book about?

“Writing in 1953, Gallagher and Robinson turned the field of imperial history on its head with their slim article. In it they argued that the traditional focus of scholars of imperialism upon ‘formal’ empires – direct rule of an area by another state – focused only on the formal tip of the imperial iceberg, hiding a much larger mass of informal imperialism beneath the waterline.

“Gallagher and Robinson pointed out that much of Britain’s trade was not with its empire but with other parts of the world. Britain used its economic advantage to recruit collaborators from local elites who in turn ensured that their country’s economy was organised in a fashion conducive to British trading interests.

“We revisit this broadened horizon and bring the story right up to date, not only looking at how states have exercised formal control over external territories but also the ways in which states and supranational organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and the European Union have used economic leverage to open-up markets.”

What makes your book different?

“The book brings together scholars from several academic disciplines, activists and people from industry to shed light on the operation of imperialism. We chart how states, companies and supranational agencies have reconfigured the world economy in their favour, covering a chronology spanning from the nineteenth century to the present.

“This collection of expertise, ranging freely over the operation of imperialism over the last two hundred years is pretty unique. All of the chapters add to our understanding of key moments in the development of imperialism and capitalism. Stand-out chapters include Nick Sharman’s work on British informal imperialism in Spain (bizarrely a topic which has received little attention); Matthew Higgins, Nigel Iyer, and Veronica Morino’s chapter on contemporary tax havens (christened by them ‘Dirty Money Centres’); and Gibson Burrell’s reconceptualization of the peasantry as agents and/or resistance to imperial control.”

Who is your audience?

“Scholars of imperialism are the obvious audience for this book, but its geographical spread and chronological breadth means that there’s plenty of interest here to a wide audience.  Anyone interested in how Britain, the US and the European Union have reconfigured the global economy to suit their interests will be interested in this book. Likewise, anyone interested in studying the effects of imperialism on countries such as Chile, Spain and on the continent of Africa will be interested too.”

Where did the idea to write the book come from?

“Imperialism is a long-standing interest of mine, having trained as a historian of British imperialism.  In 2014, Jo Grady and I published an article in Capital and Class sketching out how Gallagher and Robinson’s ideas could be applied to the US and even to China. This book expands on that article and provides plenty of case studies of how imperialism operates globally.”

Why are you interested in imperialism?

“Imperialism is a useful tool that helps us to understand how economies operate outside of their metropolitan area. In the book, we demonstrate that successful economies solidify their success through exerting force, often economic rather than military, on other countries. So, whilst our book looks at particular case studies, we’re also trying to understand the power inequalities in the global economy as a whole. Identifying these inequalities is essential before we can address resolving them to the benefit of people across the global economy, not just those in richer countries.”

What do you hope to achieve from publishing the book?

“The Gallagher and Robinson controversy has rumbled on for over sixty years. I hope we’ve given it a little prod and revived it, this time thinking about how their ideas can help us understand a world quite changed from when they were writing. Britain may no longer be a global superpower, and multinational organisations may play a part in global governance and economy which could not have been anticipated in the 1950s, yet the theoretical tools Gallagher and Robinson provide nevertheless help us to understand both the past and the contemporary world.”

What’s next?

“Who knows? Debates over the nature of imperialism aren’t likely to go away any time soon. But hopefully we’ve collected together here a volume which helps people to make some better sense of how the world around them operates.”

The book

Order a copy here