Globalisation and its costs and benefits are at the heart of much of todays political debate. But intense debates on the liberalisation of international trade are by no means new. Free trade was one of the great rallying cries of the Victorian Liberal Party.
In the 1840s, the Anti-Corn Law League successfully campaigned for abolition of the high duties on the import of grain established after the Napoleonic Wars to protect British agriculture from foreign competition. Manchester, the centre of the cotton industry, whose products were denied access to overseas markets because of continental grain-growers inability to export to Britain, became the headquarters of the League. The radical Liberals Richard Cobden and John Bright were its leaders.
Our meeting at Manchester Conference looked at the work and legacy of Cobden, Bright and the Manchester School of Liberalism.
This meeting was held at the Peoples History Museum in conjunction with its current exhibition, “Reforming Manchester: Liberals and the City.”