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Austerity, free trade, and the deficit: the mid 19th century origins of a British obsession

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The German people’s experience of hyper-inflation in 1923 is often cited as contributing to a folk memory that even today places limits on what policy makers can do. The British too have had their economic obsessions, most notably in their long-held fundamental belief in the moral superiority of ‘free trade’ in both its wide and narrow senses. In this talk, Boyd Hilton examines a mid nineteenth-century crisis that was not altogether unlike the present one, and shows how various contingent political, social, and ideological factors came together to enthrone ‘free trade’ in the British imagination.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Humanities Society talks series.

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