Little Englandism


The Quebec Act
The War of 1812
The Fur Empire
Timber and Wheat
Population Increase
Little Englandism


In the 1840s, new views about empire emerged in Great Britain. Known as “Little Englandism”, this view considered colonies not as commercial assets, but as liabilities. It came from the economists of the School of Manchester who viewed free trade as more efficient and profitable than the old mercantile system in place since the 16th century.

Little by little, under the growing influence of thinkers from the School of Manchester, mercantilism was abandoned in favor of free trade, until the Corn Laws were repealed in 1846 and the Navigation Laws in 1849, putting an end to preferential duties for the colonies.


Britain's new policy had major economic and political consequences for BNA. The abandonment of the mercantile system was felt to be a betrayal, especially by the Canadian merchants who were losing their advantages on the British market. As a result, some British merchants of Montreal launched a movement for the annexation of Canada to the US. While this particular movement was short-lived, the end of preferential duties for the colonies encouraged a realignment of BNA trade towards the United States. A Reciprocity Treaty with the US that introduced free trade for natural products was signed in 1854, and in the 1850s  BNA exports to the US were multiplied by 4.