Chapter

Harriet Martineau on the Fertility of Exchange

Ayşe Çelikkol

in Romances of Free Trade

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199769001
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199896943 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199769001.003.0004
Harriet Martineau on the Fertility of Exchange

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Harriet Martineau describes global commerce through metaphors of harmony and fertility in “Dawn Island” (1845), a didactic tale that she identified as her offering to the Anti-Corn Law League. To describe free trade as natural and God-given, she conjured up older vocabularies of myth and religion. Primeval settings that embody unspoiled natural harmony and the abstraction of space characteristic of romances efface the threats posed by free trade. In imagined premodern worlds in which there are no nation-states, the absence of borders appears natural, and commercial exchange correlates to harmony between individuals. Martineau’s reconciliation of global capitalism with nature resonates with contemporary defenses of free trade. The poet Ebenezer Elliott referred to religious values to oppose prohibitions on the importation of grain; circulars of the Anti-Corn Law League compared the circulation of commodities to the flow of air.

Keywords: Harriet Martineau; Dawn Island; Ebenezer Elliott; The Corn-Law Rhymes; The Anti-Corn Law League

Chapter.  8363 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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