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Timeline of Trade Policy: The Pax Brittanica Period, 1816-1913
This century begins and ends in world wars, but the middle is marked by British hegemony and the highpoint in pre-GATT free trade.

 

 

Major world events are shown in red.

Developments in trade policy and allied fields are shown in black.

Important events in U.S. law and policy are shown in
blue.

Landmarks in economic, legal, and political theory, as well as technological developments, are shown in green.

 

 

 

COLONIAL PERIOD
SECOND THIRTY YEARS WAR
GATT PERIOD
WTO PERIOD

 

 

 

 

 


1816

The U.S. Congress enacts the first explicitly protectionist U.S. tariff act.

1817

David Ricardo publishes his Principles of Political Economy.

1819

The German zollverein (customs union) begins with the negotiation of an agreement between Prussia and Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen.

1820

Britain begins to use its naval power to suppress the slave trade.

1823

Declaration of the Monroe Doctrine of the United States. 

1824

The U.S. Congress enacts a protectionist tariff.

Completion of the Erie Canal between Lake Erie and the Hudson River.

1825

Opening of the first successful railway system (the Stockton-Darmington Railway).

James Mill publishes his Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind.

1828

The British Corn Laws are partially relaxed.

The U.S. Congress enacts the “Tariff of Abominations.”

1829

Slavery abolished in Mexico.

1832

The U.S. Congress enacts a modest reduction in the tariff.

1833

The abolition of slavery in British colonies.

The U.S. Congress enacts the “Compromise Tariff,” which gradually reduces rates.

1834

Cyrus McCormick patents the reaper.

1837

Start of the reign of Queen Victoria. 

John Deere introduces the steel plow.

Three inventors simultaneously develop the telegraph.

1838

Slavery abolished in all British colonies.

1839

Louis Daguerre develops the first photographic process..

1841

The Opium War breaks out between Great Britain and China. 

Friedrich List publishes his National System of Political Economy.

1842

The Treaty of Nanking between Great Britain and China is the first in a series of “unequal treaties” between China and Western powers, each of which includes a most-favored-nation clause. 

The U.S. Congress enacts the “Black Tariff,” which restores rates to the 1832 levels.

1844

The zollverein includes practically the whole of Germany.

The Treaty of Wanghsia between the United States and China. 

1846

Outbreak of the U.S.-Mexican War, which will last until 1848.

The British Parliament repeals the Corn Laws.

The U.S. Congress enacts the relatively liberal “Walker Tariff.”

1848

Revolutionary movements in many European countries.

Slavery abolished in all French and Danish colonies.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels write The Communist Manifesto; Marx delivers a speech "On the Question of Free Trade."

John Stuart Mill publishes his Principles of Political Economy.

1851

Isaac Singer invents the first practical domestic sewing machine.

1854

Outbreak of the Crimean War, which will last until 1856. 

The Treaty of Kanagawa with the United States ends the isolation of Japan.

1857

The U.S. Congress enacts reductions in the tariff.

1858

Control of India passes from the East India Company to the British Crown. 

1859

The first oil well is drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species. 

1860

The Cobden-Chevalier Treaty between Great Britain and France marks the start of British leadership in the negotiation of liberal, bilateral trade agreements linked through universal most-favored-nation clauses.

1861

Emancipation of the serfs in Russia.

Outbreak of the U.S. Civil War, which will last until 1865.

The U.S. Congress enacts the protectionist Morrill Tariff Act, the first in a series of tariffs that will become known as the “War Tariff” and remain in place (with adjustments) for a generation.

Pasteurization introduced as a means of preserving milk and other beverages.

1863

Slavery abolished in all Dutch colonies.

1865

The Union's victory in the Civil War ends slavery in the United States.

Thaddeus Lowe invents the compression ice machine, thus making possible the long-distance transportation of goods that were previously not possible to ship.

1866

The first transatlantic cable is laid.

1867

The United States purchases Alaska from Russia.

Karl Marx publishes the first volume of Das Kapital.

1868

The Meiji Restoration begins in Japan.

1869

Opening of the Suez Canal.

1870

The Franco-Prussian War breaks out, and will last until 1871.

1871

Gradual emancipation of slavery initiated in Brazil.

Trade Unions Act legalizes unions in Great Britain.

1872

The U.S. Congress makes a 10 percent reduction in the War Tariff.

1874

Removal of sugar tariffs in Great Britain.

1873

The HMS Devastation is the first modern, oceangoing warship that is powered by steam.

1876

Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone.

1879

Germany under Bismarck abandons the free trade policy with the enactment of a protective tariff.

Tomas Edison patents the light bulb.

1882  

The U.S. Congress enacts the Chinese Exclusion Act.

1883

Adoption of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

The U.S. Congress enacts the “Mongrel Tariff.”

1885

Gottlieb Daimler patents the first gasoline engine.

1886

Slavery abolished in Cuba.

Adoption of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

1888

Slavery abolished in Brazil.

Williams Burroughs invents the first successful recording adding machine.

1889

The Pan-American Union is established in Washington.

1890

The U.S. Congress enacts the protectionist McKinley Tariff Act.

1893

Creation of the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property (BIRPI).

1894

The Sino-Japanese War breaks out, and will last until 1895.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act, with modest reductions in rates.

1895

The first public showing of a motion picture.

Guglielmo Marconi invents the wireless telegraph.

1896

Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works completed in Paris.

1897

The U.S. Congress enacts the protectionist Dingley Tariff Act.

1898

The Spanish-American War.

Annexation of the Hawaiian Islands by the United States.

1899

The First Hague Peace Conference.

The United States issues its first Open Door note with respect to China.

1903

Start of the tariff reform (i.e., protectionist) movement in Great Britain.

The Wright brothers make the first flight in a heavier-than-air craft.

1904

The Russo-Japanese War breaks out, and will last until 1905.

1905

Failed revolution in Russia.

1909

The U.S. Congress enacts the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act.

1912

Germany develops diesel-powered submarines.

1913

The U.S. Congress enacts the liberal Underwood Tariff Act.