The period of German unification coincided with the high-water mark of economic liberalism in Europe. The pacemaker in this was Britain which had emerged from the Napoleonic wars as indisputably the greatest economic and political power in the world. Rapid economic growth — above all in the manufacture of textile and metal goods — had created important economic ties between Britain and Europe. Britain was dependent upon Europe for the supply of many raw materials and foodstuffs while Europe was a major market for British semi-finished and consumer manufactures. (This simplifies; Britain, for example, was a major exporter of coal to many coastal areas of northern Europe and imported many articles of manufacture from Europe.) The logic of this relationship eventually pushed Britain towards a policy of free trade, symbolised and most powerfully promoted with the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 and the Navigation Acts in 1849 [11: ch. 1].
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