The previous chapter examined the relationship between early capitalist development and empire with particular reference to mercantilism. By the late eighteenth century onwards, a number of important and influential figures began to make a strong case against empire, and the burdens that were said to be placed on Britain. As part of a wider campaign against colonialism, slavery and mercantilism, many classical political economists made the liberal case for free trade, which culminated in the ‘cosmopolitan’ thinking of Richard Cobden, and the abolition of the Corn Laws in 1846. This suggests that liberalism is incompatible with colonialism and empire, and early imperialism came to an end with the eventual defeat of mercantilism, although it was revived in the late nineteenth century (see next chapter).
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