The Imperialism of Free Trade

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"The Imperialism of Free Trade" is an academic article by John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson which was published in The Economic History Review in 1953. The article was influential in the debate concerning theories of imperialism which, after John A. Hobson's Imperialism: A Study, focused on economic motivation. Instead, Gallagher and Robinson claimed that the New Imperialism — "the new spate of imperial expansion that gathered momentum from the 1880s" — could be best characterised as a continuation of a long-term policy in which informal empire, based on the principles of free trade, was favoured over formal imperial control.[1] As well as reigniting scholarly interest in theorizing New Imperialism, the article helped launch the Cambridge School of historiography.

The arguments proposed in the article were later developed in a full-length book, Africa and the Victorians (1961), in conjunction with Alice Denny. The book put forward a subtly different explanation for European expansion in Africa, built around geopolitics and a strategy of protecting British India from encroachment by European powers.


  1. ^ Gat, Azar (2006). War in Human Civilization. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 542–557. ISBN 978-0199236633. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Gallagher, John and Ronald Robinson. "The Imperialism of Free Trade," The Economic History Review (August 1953) 6#1 pp 1–15, doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.1953.tb01482.x in JSTOR
  • Platt, D. C. M. "The Imperialism of Free Trade: Some Reservations", The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Aug., 1968), pp. 296-306

External links[edit]