This paper explores the demise of a conception of the British Empire/Commonwealth of Nations as a coherent trading unit amongst business elites from 1945 to 1975. It does so through the prism of a previously neglected pan-imperial, later pan-Commonwealth, business association: the Federation of Commonwealth Chambers of Commerce. The paper follows the Federation’s revival in the 1950s, its adaption to the emerging ‘new’ Commonwealth, its response to Britain’s engagement with Europe, and its final demise in the early 70s. It argues that the dissolution of the Federation reflected shifting patterns of globalisation which, from the 1960s and along with the constitutional changes of the end of empire, made it increasingly difficult to imagine the Commonwealth to be a coherent market.
Dr Andrew Dilley is a Senior Lecturer in Imperial and Global History in the Department of History at the University of Aberdeen. His early publications, including his book Finance, Politics, and Imperialism: The City of London, Australia, and Canada 1896–1914 (Palgrave, 2012), focused on the political impacts of finance in the British dominions. He currently holds an AHRC Early Career Fellowship on Commerce and the Commonwealth: Business Associations, Political Culture, and Governance, 1886–1975, which aims to re-examine the economic and political history of the Empire-Commonwealth through the lens provided by business associations, in so doing addressing broader issues of economics and governance in supra-national polities.