Economic Liberalism: Workshop

Our series of workshops that have been exploring major historiographical themes in the comparative history of liberalism in the Americas came to a close on 6 June 2012, with a vibrant session on Economic Liberalism in the Americas in Senate House, London. We were extremely pleased to have the support of the Economic History Society and the Society for Latin American Studies in holding this event, and the associated public lecture by Prof. Victor Bulmer-Thomas also on 6 June 2012.

Written working papers were submitted by four paper presenters in advance of the workshop for registered participants to read, and a fifth paper was briefly introduced during the workshop, in order to devote maximum possible time to discussion. Our commentators, Prof. Rosemary Thorp and Prof. Alan Knight, both from St Antony’s College, Oxford, opened discussion in the two panels with some critical comments and feedback on the papers, and some broader, thought-provoking observations on the theme of economic liberalism. In particular, the papers and discussion focused on the often problematic relationship between economic liberalism and political liberalism and made some comparative observations about the impact of liberalism and neo-liberalism in the Americas. The programme can be downloaded here.

Much of the discussion also centred on clarifying exactly what economic liberalism means in different policy arenas, from banking and monetary policies, to principles of taxation, property laws, internal and external trading systems, and labour issues. In reaching some conclusions, areas for further research were also identified, including the relationship between fiscal policy, credit networks, and land speculation in the early American republic and how liberal economic policy affected the relationship of states and markets with respect to urban centres, urban consumers, urban property and urban planning across the region. More generally, it was noted that future studies of liberalism should endeavour to bring economic and political developments and perspectives together, as well as employing a geographically sensitive analysis.

For further details, please download the full conference report, and consult some of the working papers presented during the workshop in our Liberalism in the Americas collection in SAS-space.

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