The project has the potential to achieve a broad public impact by involving a range of participants and practitioners from outside academic life such as governmental organisations, learned societies and think tanks who are grappling with similar and related questions, yet speaking to different audiences. Our confirmed project partners are the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICS), Churchill College, Cambridge and History and Policy. The ICS is an international centre of excellence for policy-relevant research, its affiliate the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau acts as an independent think-tank and advisory service for the modern Commonwealth. Through its 'witness seminar' programme, Churchill College has been at the forefront of debating key events in contemporary history, participants have included former international leaders and members of British cabinets. History and Policy works for better public policy by developing links between historians, policy makers and the media and has recent experience of running public policy seminars with the Department of Education and the Treasury.
The network itself has been put together with a view to closely involving a range of stakeholders from the outset of the research: project partners have commented upon the application, representatives from these organisations will be invited to attend all of the workshops, and key research findings from each of the workshops will be summarised and circulated among all of the project partners. The two-day workshops which include sessions for knowledge exchange will be hosted in London by the ICS and in Cambridge by Churchill College. The ICS are willing to produce a Commonwealth Advisory Bureau pamphlet discussing the implications of our research for policy-makers and the business community. History and Policy will assist in the staging of a policy seminar in London exploring the implications of the project's findings for our understandings of Commonwealth trade to which representatives of several business and governmental organisations will be invited.
Churchill College will provide support in organising the witness seminar and in transcribing and publishing the transcripts online for the use of researchers. All partners are committed therefore to working closely with the research network to share their knowledge and expertise. There will be two stakeholder seminars at the final workshop, which will be held in Cambridge. A witness seminar will give an opportunity to consult a range of expert witnesses who were actually involved in the events and processes we are studying (EC negotiations, the reunification of Hong Kong and China, trade agreements with China) and so able to provide first hand testimony. The final policy seminar, 'History for the future: Understanding export markets', will enable academic members of the network to reflect critically on the contemporary relevance of their findings, and, more specifically, to understand what are the key issues and challenges, ethical as well as economic, faced by government today in promoting and developing overseas trade.
The main outputs from these activities will be: a series of oral history witness seminar transcripts, to be held by Churchill College and published online, and reports for History and Policy, the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau, and Juncture, a public policy journal produced by the IPPR.
The advisory board for the network will comprise representatives from Churchill College and the ICS thus enabling partners to contribute to the shaping of the overall research programme and to engage with debates as they emerge. The board will also have the effect of developing stronger connections between the project PI and Co-I, the academic advisors, and a diverse group of organisations interested in the role, evaluation and conceptualisation of overseas markets in Britain's past, present and future economic orientation and well-being.
The global economy is currently undergoing long-lasting, structural change, with shifting trading patterns, the rapid rise of new regions of economic growth, and tightening relations between countries. Yet this is not the first time that globalisation has redefined power flows in the international economy. The proposed network aims to provide a vital and yet noticeably lacking bridge between historical and contemporary ways of thinking about Britain's future global economic orientation, breaking new ground by examining how a range of opinion in Britain has been and continues to be orchestrated behind different and shifting conceptions of the nation's economic future, and illuminating the different ways in which overseas markets have, at various times in the past, been imagined, evaluated and conceptualised, as well as the implications and consequences of this for the way we view the possibilities and potential of these very same markets today. This project seeks to provide policy makers in governmental and intergovernmental organisations with the first interconnected analysis of the long-term development of Britain's key modern trade relationships.
In order to do this the network will fuse together cultural, economic and political perspectives, in order to provide a deeper and historically grounded understanding of how governments and other economic actors in Britain have imagined three crucial markets - the Empire/Commonwealth, Europe, and China. In the first half of the twentieth century, many in Britain looked to its empire to promote a recognisably modern form of economic integration, while, after 1945, similar hopes and aspirations were invested in Europe and the Far East, albeit not always by the same people. The economist Joseph Schumpeter put the concept of imagination at the heart of this entrepreneurial process. It was this quality which, above all, businesspeople required if they were to succeed: 'the capacity of seeing things in a way which proves afterwards to be true, even though it cannot be established [as such] at the time.' In the same way as communities are imagined, so too are economies- making calculations about and placing faith in the future and its possibilities are key qualities of investors and entrepreneurs. Although somewhat neglected in the mainstream economics literature, Schumpeter's insight has found a strong echo in the modern discipline of marketing. Thus the network also seeks to combine a range of historical perspectives with the expertise of scholars working in the social sciences. This, in turn, will yield new insights not only into the history of Britain's political economy but also into the social psychology of entrepreneurship in the age of globalization.
In the wake of today's global financial crisis, the question of how nations can establish, protect or even recover a competitive economic advantage looms large in the media, manufacturing, business and policy-making circles. As an exercise in 'deep history', the proposed network will generate fresh insights into the ways in which perceptions of international markets were reconfigured as a result of intra-European trade agreements, scrambles for territory in Africa and China, and growing demand in Britain for protectionist tariffs arising from intensifying industrial competition from Germany and the United States. It will further explore the extent to and ways in which Britain's economic relationships with the Commonwealth, Europe and China remain vital to its identity in today's globalised world.