Tariff Protection and Economic Performance in the Nineteenth Century

  • Forrest Capie
Part of the International Economics Study Group book series (IESG)


The role of the tariff in economic development in the nineteenth century has long been a subject of debate, even if much of the literature has centred on the political objectives and avoids assessing the economic effects. No less an economist than Taussig, in his 1880’s study, conceded that he, “… does not touch directly on the more important but less easy questions as to the economic effects of (tariff) legislation” (Taussig, 1885, preface), and in his Principles almost forty years later said: “The economic effects of this system (tariffs) it is impossible to follow empirically…more baffling is the task of following or measuring its effects on general prosperity” (1921, p. 539). Some historians too have been content to pass on in a casual way observations that owed as much to ideology as they did to empirical investigation: some noted that Free Trade Britain grew more rapidly than other countries and more rapidly than at any other time, while other writers pointed to the coincidence of protection and prosperity in certain countries. And yet the dominance of some variables together with the comparative data scarcity combine to make the task of identifying the role of the tariff in the nineteenth century much more difficult than is commonly allowed for.


Nineteenth Century International Trade Free Trade Effective Rate Effective Protection 
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© International Economics Study Group 1983

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  • Forrest Capie

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