Skip to main content

imperial preference

imperial preference. This was a favourite nostrum of late 19th- and early 20th-cent. imperialists to bind the empire together by levying lower tariffs on colonial imports than on others. The colonies were supposed to reciprocate. Joseph Chamberlain championed it from 1903. But there was a snag. Britain still adhered to free trade. You cannot grant more preferential tariffs than none at all. Chamberlain wanted a tax on imported corn, to make this possible, but that was rejected at the election of 1906 because it would mean dearer bread. So the imperialists had to wait until 1932, when food import tariffs were introduced generally again, and a series of bilateral agreements negotiated with the dominions and colonies to favour them. Imperial trade increased thereafter, though that may not have been wholly due to this. After the Second World War the policy slowly declined, as a result of American pressure, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (1947), and Britain's adhesion to a rival trading unit—the European Economic Community—in 1973.

Bernard Porter

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"imperial preference." The Oxford Companion to British History. . 16 Feb. 2019 <>.

"imperial preference." The Oxford Companion to British History. . (February 16, 2019).

"imperial preference." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved February 16, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.