Historical instruments of European integration: The commercial configuration of the ‘Balance of Power’

Description

Academy of Finland Research Project: The aim of this project is to develop a solid understanding of historical paradigms of European economic integration. Specifically I want to study eighteenth-century instruments for aligning the interests of European states in order to preserve peace. More and lesserknown examples of such instruments are commercial treaties as were concluded since the late 17th century, a joint European trade company, the so-called League of Neutrality and the abbé de Saint-Pierre's ‘Project for Perpetual Peace’ – which remains as an easily recognizable early form of a European Union. In the decades preceding the War of the Austrian Succession the distinctive European outlooks onto global trade that were developed during the War of the Spanish Succession were consolidated in the European political economic mindset. Here they triggered reflections on the future principles and patterns of foreign trade. Was European political economy to be conducted on the basis of complementarity, comparative advantages and specialization? Or had the history of commerce arrived at a stage where European states were capable of competing with each other on many different terrains as balanced societies, so that even the Dutch Republic had to yield to this reality and while continuing to exploit trade as its primary sector also actively promote and protect agriculture and manufacturing? What kinds of intra-European and extra-European dynamics would this give rise to? These questions complicate and problematize the ways in which historiography has opposed simplified (e.g. British and Swedish) party political outlooks.
It may be suggested that the institutional designs developed around 1700 were with some modifications upheld until late into the 18th century, the time of the War of the American Independence, and arguably stretched deep into the 19th century, to the famous Cobden-Chevalier commercial treaty of 1860 and perhaps even further. Yet, reading 18th-century sources about commercial treaties and the paradoxes of modern Europe and relating them to the time of the peace of Utrecht not only offers one quite a close understanding of the
contours of 18th and 19th- century political thought. It also inspires a more fundamental comprehension of the historical strictures to European political and economic integration than is provided by the revisionist perspectives of liberal or Marxist political economy that still dominate our common sense outlooks onto these issues.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date01/09/201431/08/2019