Manchester School. This provided a convenient label to identify many of the 19th-cent. advocates of laissez-faire and, in particular, free trade. Widespread support for free trade developed amongst the manufacturers of the cotton industry in Lancashire and Cheshire. The intellectual focus for this movement included Richard Cobden and John Bright whose economic philosophies dominated the Liberal Party for much of the period. The initial case for removing mercantilist regulations of trade had been made by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (1776). In Lancashire and elsewhere support grew rapidly in the early 19th cent. with the aim of making exports and imports as easy as possible without the restraints of taxation or protective laws, such as Navigation Acts. Associated with the free trade movement was the Manchester Statistical Society, founded to publish research which could advance their cause.
Ian John Ernest Keil
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