Economic Liberalism: Workshop

Our series of workshops that have been exploring major historiographical themes in the comparative history of liberalism in the Americas came to a close on 6 June 2012, with a vibrant session on Economic Liberalism in the Americas in Senate House, London. We were extremely pleased to have the support of the Economic History Society and the Society for Latin American Studies in holding this event, and the associated public lecture by Prof. Victor Bulmer-Thomas also on 6 June 2012.

Written working papers were submitted by four paper presenters in advance of the workshop for registered participants to read, and a fifth paper was briefly introduced during the workshop, in order to devote maximum possible time to discussion. Our commentators, Prof. Rosemary Thorp and Prof. Alan Knight, both from St Antony’s College, Oxford, opened discussion in the two panels with some critical comments and feedback on the papers, and some broader, thought-provoking observations on the theme of economic liberalism. In particular, the papers and discussion focused on the often problematic relationship between economic liberalism and political liberalism and made some comparative observations about the impact of liberalism and neo-liberalism in the Americas. The programme can be downloaded here.

Much of the discussion also centred on clarifying exactly what economic liberalism means in different policy arenas, from banking and monetary policies, to principles of taxation, property laws, internal and external trading systems, and labour issues. In reaching some conclusions, areas for further research were also identified, including the relationship between fiscal policy, credit networks, and land speculation in the early American republic and how liberal economic policy affected the relationship of states and markets with respect to urban centres, urban consumers, urban property and urban planning across the region. More generally, it was noted that future studies of liberalism should endeavour to bring economic and political developments and perspectives together, as well as employing a geographically sensitive analysis.

For further details, please download the full conference report, and consult some of the working papers presented during the workshop in our Liberalism in the Americas collection in SAS-space.

Liberalism and Religion: Workshop

The fourth workshop in our series, Liberalism and Religion: Secularisation and the Public Sphere in the Americas, took place on 18 April 2012 in London. The workshop series brings together scholars who work on different parts of the Americas to examine themes related to the history of liberalism in a comparative context.

Following the pattern of previous sessions, the workshop was wholly discussion based: our commentators, Dr Austen Ivereigh (Catholic Voices) and Dr Natalia Sobrevilla Perea (University of Kent), opened the sessions with some reflections and questions about the papers that participants in the workshop had been able to read in advance. Papers were contributed by Prof. Roberto di Stefano (Universidad de Buenos Aires), Dr Trevor Stack (University of Aberdeen), Prof. Ricardo Martínez Esquivel (Universidad de Costa Rica) and Dr Gregorio Alonso (University of Leeds). Download the Programme (18 April) for further details.

The papers and the discussion helped to shine a critical light on several important issues and to highlight research areas that needed further investigation. Overall, the workshop participants emphasised the need to turn away from an oppositional conception of liberalism and religion in the context of Latin American state-building and to understand the overlapping and intertwined spaces that liberalism and Catholicism occupied in the public sphere in the nineteenth century. In addition, several avenues for future research were indicated, including how the relationship, by turns co-operative and conflictive, between liberalism and religion operated within local political and social institutions. Above all, the comparative framework of analysis helped discussants to think about the larger origins and consequences of Church-State conflicts across the region in terms of political discourse, institutional structures, and social identifications.

Download the full conference report for further information. And please leave a reply in the comments section!

Liberal Constitutionalism in the Americas: Workshop

On 21 March 2012, we hosted the third in our series of research workshops, on Liberal Constitutionalism in the Americas: Theory and Practice, at Senate House, London. The research workshops bring together scholars working on similar themes in different parts of the Americas in order to shine a comparative light on questions related to the history of liberalism in the region.

These workshops are heavily discussion-based: after our initial workshop in October 2011, we decided to leave out spoken presentations altogether and devote the entire session to discussion, comments, questions and feedback on the written papers that paper contributors submit in advance of the workshop. This has allowed in depth, exploratory discussions for the group to focus on comparative analysis, and I hope that individual paper contributors have also found the detailed focus on their work helpful in redrafting the working papers for future publication.

The Liberal Constitutionalism workshop featured two panels, one on South America, and one the United States and the Atlantic World (see the programme (21 March) for full details), and our paper contributors were: Dr Natalia Sobrevilla Perea (University of Kent), Dr Gabriel Negretto (CIDE, Mexico), Dr Marta Irurozqui (CCHS-CSIC, Madrid), Mr Tom Cutterham (St Hugh’s College, Oxford), Dr Max Edling (Loughborough University), and Prof. Kenneth Maxwell (Retired). We were also very grateful for the participation of Dr Adrian Pearce (KCL) and Dr Erik Mathisen (University of Portsmouth) for their excellent and stimulating contributions as commentators on the two panels.

The discussion focused on many interesting areas, which were greatly enhanced by the comparative focus of the event: the extent of liberal hegemony in the early to mid-nineteenth century; the ability of non-elite actors to participate in and shape constitutional practices; the importance of constitution-making for government and state legitimation; continuity and change in political cultures through the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century; and the mobility and malleability of liberal constitutionalism throughout the Americas and the Atlantic World. Please see the full report (21 March) for further details, and join the discussion in the comments section!