As thousands flock to ‘Fairtrade Fortnight’ events all over Britain, Free Trade Nation,
a new book by Professor Frank Trentmann, Director of the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Cultures of Consumption programme, shows that ethical consumerism was already flourishing over a century ago.
Then, it was Free Trade that brought millions of Britons onto the streets, promoting peace, justice and democracy.
‘Today, Free Trade is often viewed as the new slavery,’ says Professor Trentmann. ‘Look at the anti-globalisation demonstrations at the WTO and G8 summits. People see Fairtrade as the way to peace and justice. Fairtrade is cool, even sexy, and attracts widespread support from eco-warriors to rock stars. But what people don’t know is that Free Trade was once an equally popular movement, and similarly seen as the path to democracy.’