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Economic Foundations of British Overseas Expansion 1815–1914 by P. J. Cain

By P. J. Cain

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A. Cole, British Economic Growth JfjiJIJ--I959 (1962) p. 36. In view of the rising importance of income from investments abroad it is not surprising that contemporaries suggested an intimate connection between capital export and the very rapid increase in British formal control in parts of Africa and Asia in this period. J. A. Hobson argued in Imperialism. A Study that severe maldistribution of income was placing large amounts of capital in the hands of a financial class who needed secure overseas markets to safeguard these investments.

The extension of control to the port of Labuan on the North Borneo coast in I 846 was intended to fulfil the same objectives. Agreements with the Dutch on liberal trading provisions in the archipelago had become a dead letter by the I84os and, with the stimulus of commercial depression behind them, the British hoped to counteract Dutch influence in the area by developing Labuan both as a naval coaling station and as a commercial entrepot. In this case, the policy failed to produce the desired economic results [ 183: 83-7; I 84: 22-3; 64: 384-5, 387-go, 393-401; 26: 146, 148-so].

The first political group which advocated the abandonment of free trade and closer economic unity with the empire were the Fair Traders whose strength, in the 188os, lay in the embattled industries of wool, iron and agriculture [10; 199]. They advocated a tariff on manufactured imports partly as a retaliatory weapon against foreign protectionism and also proposed a 10 per cent to 15 per cent tariff on both manufactures and foodstuffs from foreign countries and free entry for empire commodities.

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