Courtesy Reuters

THE British imperial preference system was born out of the union of political exaltation and economic uneasiness. The British Crown emerged from the imperial campaigns, of which the Boer War was the last, with immense new territories. British settlements throughout the world were swept by a feeling of triumphant national pride. Readers of Kipling will be familiar with the emotions of the time, which have been more lately recalled for us in the historical moving picture "Cavalcade." But these give no sign of the uneasiness that at the same time was invading those dim offices of London and Birmingham where the watch is kept over Britain's trade condition. The United Kingdom was carrying almost all the rapidly mounting cost of imperial defense. Its share of world trade had clearly declined during the past 20 years; German and American competition were growing more difficult to meet. The idea of trade preferences within the Empire, discarded many decades before, gained support both as a means of uniting the scattered domains and of sustaining Britain's trade.

The first significant step was taken around the turn of the century, when Canada and South Africa enacted preferences for British goods. When Joseph Chamberlain sought office in 1906,

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  • HERBERT FEIS, former Adviser on International Economic Affairs in the Department of State; recently Special Adviser to the Secretary of War; author of "The Changing Pattern of International Economic Affairs"
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