Imagining Markets: Empire, Europe, China in Britain's economic future since the 1870s

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: History

Abstract

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 aims to provide a vital and yet noticeably lacking bridge between historical and contemporary ways of thinking about Britain's future global economic orientation, breaking new ground by examining how a range of opinion in Britain has been and continues to be orchestrated behind different and shifting conceptions of the nation's economic future, and illuminating 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 this for the way we view the possibilities and potential of these very same markets today. This project seeks to provide policy makers in governmental and intergovernmental organisations with the first interconnected analysis of the long-term development of Britain's key modern trade relationships.
In order to do this the network will fuse together cultural, economic and political perspectives, in order to provide a deeper and historically grounded understanding of how governments and other economic actors in Britain have imagined three crucial markets - the Empire/Commonwealth, Europe, and China. In the first half of the twentieth century, many in Britain looked to its empire to promote a recognisably modern form of economic integration, while, after 1945, similar hopes and aspirations were invested in Europe and the Far East, albeit not always by the same people. The economist Joseph Schumpeter put the concept of imagination at the heart of this entrepreneurial process. It was this quality which, above all, businesspeople required if they were to succeed: 'the capacity of seeing things in a way which proves afterwards to be true, even though it cannot be established [as such] at the time.' In the same way as communities are imagined, so too are economies- making calculations about and placing faith in the future and its possibilities are key qualities of investors and entrepreneurs. Although somewhat neglected in the mainstream economics literature, Schumpeter's insight has found a strong echo in the modern discipline of marketing. Thus the network also seeks to combine a range of historical perspectives with the expertise of scholars working in the social sciences. This, in turn, will yield new insights not only into the history of Britain's political economy but also into the social psychology of entrepreneurship in the age of globalization.
In the wake of today's global financial crisis, the question of how nations can establish, protect or even recover a competitive economic advantage looms large in the media, manufacturing, business and policy-making circles. As an exercise in 'deep history', the proposed network will generate fresh insights into the ways in which perceptions of international markets were reconfigured as a result of intra-European trade agreements, scrambles for territory in Africa and China, and growing demand in Britain for protectionist tariffs arising from intensifying industrial competition from Germany and the United States. It will further explore the extent to and ways in which Britain's economic relationships with the Commonwealth, Europe and China remain vital to its identity in today's globalised world.

Planned Impact

The project has the potential to achieve a broad public impact by involving a range of participants and practitioners from outside academic life such as governmental organisations, learned societies and think tanks who are grappling with similar and related questions, yet speaking to different audiences. Our confirmed project partners are the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICS), Churchill College, Cambridge and History and Policy. The ICS is an international centre of excellence for policy-relevant research, its affiliate the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau acts as an independent think-tank and advisory service for the modern Commonwealth. Through its 'witness seminar' programme, Churchill College has been at the forefront of debating key events in contemporary history, participants have included former international leaders and members of British cabinets. History and Policy works for better public policy by developing links between historians, policy makers and the media and has recent experience of running public policy seminars with the Department of Education and the Treasury.

The network itself has been put together with a view to closely involving a range of stakeholders from the outset of the research: project partners have commented upon the application, representatives from these organisations will be invited to attend all of the workshops, and key research findings from each of the workshops will be summarised and circulated among all of the project partners. The two-day workshops which include sessions for knowledge exchange will be hosted in London by the ICS and in Cambridge by Churchill College. The ICS are willing to produce a Commonwealth Advisory Bureau pamphlet discussing the implications of our research for policy-makers and the business community. History and Policy will assist in the staging of a policy seminar in London exploring the implications of the project's findings for our understandings of Commonwealth trade to which representatives of several business and governmental organisations will be invited.

Churchill College will provide support in organising the witness seminar and in transcribing and publishing the transcripts online for the use of researchers. All partners are committed therefore to working closely with the research network to share their knowledge and expertise. There will be two stakeholder seminars at the final workshop, which will be held in Cambridge. A witness seminar will give an opportunity to consult a range of expert witnesses who were actually involved in the events and processes we are studying (EC negotiations, the reunification of Hong Kong and China, trade agreements with China) and so able to provide first hand testimony. The final policy seminar, 'History for the future: Understanding export markets', will enable academic members of the network to reflect critically on the contemporary relevance of their findings, and, more specifically, to understand what are the key issues and challenges, ethical as well as economic, faced by government today in promoting and developing overseas trade.

The main outputs from these activities will be: a series of oral history witness seminar transcripts, to be held by Churchill College and published online, and reports for History and Policy, the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau, and Juncture, a public policy journal produced by the IPPR.

The advisory board for the network will comprise representatives from Churchill College and the ICS thus enabling partners to contribute to the shaping of the overall research programme and to engage with debates as they emerge. The board will also have the effect of developing stronger connections between the project PI and Co-I, the academic advisors, and a diverse group of organisations interested in the role, evaluation and conceptualisation of overseas markets in Britain's past, present and future economic orientation and well-being.
 
Description The research network is ongoing and has stimulated debates about how Britain's key markets have been imagined historically and how they have interconnected.

We have received additional funding from our institution to hold a workshop to bring together participants for a half-day workshop. This will be used, in part, to develop plans for an edited book based on the workshops.
Exploitation Route The research team have discussed research findings with civil servants at HM Treasury (David Thackeray and Richard Toye) and BIS Policy Profession Week (Andrew Thompson).

Thackeray has established a Global Economics and History Forum, with colleagues involved in the network workshops, organised with History & Policy. This will provide a basis to further develop on networks established with the AHRC network and further connect with policy-makers.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.imaginingmarkets.com/
 
Description I organised a History Lab workshop at HM Treasury discussing the value of exploring contingency planning during the 1975 EEC referendum for civil servants engaged in planning for the (then) upcoming EU referendum. Feedback from a senior policy advisor at HMT noted that the event was highly valuable for the departments involved (HMT, FCO, Cabinet Office European Secretariat). He noted 'over subsequent months the event has proved useful in informing discussions with colleagues and helping relate past events to contemporary policy issues'. I have also run a workshop- 'Global uncertainties and trade: Britain's economic networks, past and future' at BEIS which received highly positive feedback from a senior official there who noted 'the event was timely and pertinent to ongoing discussions being held within the department and has helped inform my policy discussions with ministers'. The three organisers of the Imagining Markets networks subsequently participated in a roundtable event on the history of Britain's industrial strategy at BEIS chaired by the Business Secretary. The official noted: 'the event received very positive feedback from the Secretary of State. Participants were willing to debate issues relevant to policy-makers and focus their interventions for time-pressured ministers, the event felt very relevant to policy conversations. A signal of its success is that the minister is keen to hold a follow-up event, building on our conversations, in the new year'.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Collaboration with Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 
Organisation Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Ran workshop in October 2016 on the value of exploring British historical trade relations with key markets at BEIS. The organisers of the Imagining Markets collaboration subsequently contributed to a roundtable on the history of British industrial strategy in November, chaired by the Business Secretary. I am contributing to the British Academy/ BEIS 'Trade Policy History' series. I produced a 5000 word document on the history of Britain's historical relations with the EEC/EU for a civil service audience, reviewed a series of key milestones for the report, and will participate in a workshop with colleagues from BEIS in March/ April 2019.
Collaborator Contribution BEIS have been actively involved in shaping the format of the events listed below. The Director General of Business and Science chaired the October 2016 event and BEIS commissioned the British Academy Trade Policy History report.
Impact British Acadmy, 'Trade Policy History' (this is currently a working draft), produced by historians and social scientists in collaboration with BEIS.
Start Year 2016
 
Description History & Policy; HM Treasury collaboration 
Organisation HM Treasury
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Organised a History Lab at HM Treasury in September 2015 with Richard Toye on the lessons of the 1975 EEC referendum for policy-makers involved in planning for the 2016 EU Referendum. This focused in particular on civil service planning for a Brexit in 1975 using evidence from the National Archives. I organised follow-up events with HMT funded by a British Academy Rising Stars Engagement Award. In April 2017 I gave a talk at HMT as part of a History & Policy-led seminar series on 'Difficulty treaty negotiations'. I subsequently organised a follow-up History Lab on British European free trade area plans during the late 1950s (and the lessons their failure can have for policy-makers) at HMT in November 2017. We are planning follow-up events for 2016-17 connected with Britain's historical relationship with Europe. With colleagues I have also recently set up a Global Economics and History Forum with History & Policy, which HM Treasury is keen to be involved with.
Collaborator Contribution History and Policy supported the administration of the workshops, liaising with HM Treasury and drawing up a list of invitees working in closely related fields in HM Treasury, the Cabinet Office and Foreign Office.
Impact I extracted information from key HM Treasury officials about the impact of the September 2015 workshop on planning for the June 2016 referendum. Initial feedback from the workshop indicated that it was appreciated by civil servants, who found it improved their knowledge of the context of the last European referendum. The preparations for the workshop and the discussion which followed has influenced two articles published in March 2016: David Thackeray, 'Selling a new deal in Europe: what the yes campaign can learn from 1975' (to be published by The Conversation) David Thackeray, 'Planning for the referendum and after: lessons from 1975' (to be published by History and Policy) They also influenced my monograph 'Forging a British World of Trade' published in 2019.
Start Year 2014
 
Description History & Policy; HM Treasury collaboration 
Organisation History and Policy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Organised a History Lab at HM Treasury in September 2015 with Richard Toye on the lessons of the 1975 EEC referendum for policy-makers involved in planning for the 2016 EU Referendum. This focused in particular on civil service planning for a Brexit in 1975 using evidence from the National Archives. I organised follow-up events with HMT funded by a British Academy Rising Stars Engagement Award. In April 2017 I gave a talk at HMT as part of a History & Policy-led seminar series on 'Difficulty treaty negotiations'. I subsequently organised a follow-up History Lab on British European free trade area plans during the late 1950s (and the lessons their failure can have for policy-makers) at HMT in November 2017. We are planning follow-up events for 2016-17 connected with Britain's historical relationship with Europe. With colleagues I have also recently set up a Global Economics and History Forum with History & Policy, which HM Treasury is keen to be involved with.
Collaborator Contribution History and Policy supported the administration of the workshops, liaising with HM Treasury and drawing up a list of invitees working in closely related fields in HM Treasury, the Cabinet Office and Foreign Office.
Impact I extracted information from key HM Treasury officials about the impact of the September 2015 workshop on planning for the June 2016 referendum. Initial feedback from the workshop indicated that it was appreciated by civil servants, who found it improved their knowledge of the context of the last European referendum. The preparations for the workshop and the discussion which followed has influenced two articles published in March 2016: David Thackeray, 'Selling a new deal in Europe: what the yes campaign can learn from 1975' (to be published by The Conversation) David Thackeray, 'Planning for the referendum and after: lessons from 1975' (to be published by History and Policy) They also influenced my monograph 'Forging a British World of Trade' published in 2019.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Activities with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Workshop on history of British trade networks at BEIS, October 2016, including representation from groups like China-Britain Business Council and History & Policy; The three organisers of the Imagining Markets networks participated in a round-table discussion on industrial strategy at BEIS in November 2016 chaired by the Business Secretary.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Launch of History & Policy Global Economics and History Forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 30 invited participants will intend the launch event of the History & Policy Global Economics and History forum, which has developed out of the AHRC Imagining Markets network. This networking event is designed to develop new connections between academics, business groups and policy-makers interested in Britain's historical trade relations with key markets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Policy workshop (held at HM Treasury) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 'History Lab' Knowledge-exchange event organised with History & Policy at HM Treasury in September 2015. The half-day event involved presentations on the 1975 EEC referendum and civil service planning by David Thackeray and Richard Toye, and guided discussion of case studies based on government documents from the time. We considered the value of the 1975 referendum in terms of planning for the 2016 European referendum. The audience were key policy-focused officials from HM Treasury, the Cabinet Office and FCO selected through discussions with a senior official at HMT.

Initial feedback indicated that the event improved the audience's understanding of the 1975 referendum and the exercise was appreciated for helping understand how historical thinking can improve policy-making today. Following further encouraging feedback we are currently in contact with a selected group of senior policy officials at HMT about giving more detailed feedback on how the workshop has affected their planning in the build-up to the June 2016 referendum.

We are also planning future events connected with Britain's historical trade relations with Europe.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015