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How Much Trade Liberalization Was There in the World Before and After Cobden-Chevalier?


The Cobden-Chevalier Treaty of 1860 is regarded as central turning point in nineteenth-century trade policy, inaugurating a free trade era in Western Europe. We reexamine this story and put it into global perspective with a new database covering more than 7,500 data points for 11 categories of manufactures in 41 countries and colonies around the world between 1846 and 1880. It reveals that bilateralism after 1860 reinforced a process already underway before. Nevertheless, we highlight that trade liberalization was a global phenomenon over most of our period, so that the prominent British case appears as typical rather than exceptional.

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