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From Protesters to Government Partners: Chambers of Commerce 1767-2012

Event held on 15 February 2012 (venue: The British Academy).

Local chambers of commerce were born in the 1760s-70s as protest bodies, driven by threats from government policies. They began in the large port cities in Britain, Ireland and the American colonies, diffusing to all smaller towns by the 1920s, their roles gradually transformed into advisors to government and partners in promoting local economies. Now chambers are one of the lead partners in the Coalition’s Local Enterprise Partnerships around England.

This event will focus on the modern and historic dynamics in these business associations, exploring the tensions between: member or government demands, national or local action, services to individual businesses or collective voice, and noisy campaigns or quiet lobbying. The event draws on the 2011 publication of Local Business Voice: The History of Chambers of Commerce in Britain, Ireland and Revolutionary America, 1760-2011, by Robert Bennett (OUP).

The speakers:

Professor Robert Bennett FBA – Emeritus Professor of Geography, University of Cambridge, author of Local Business Voice and also The Voice of Liverpool Business (2010).

Professor Martin Daunton FBA – Professor of Economic History and Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge; author of many leading books on economic and social history including Wealth and Welfare: An Economic and Social History of Britain, 1851-1951 (2007).

Professor Wyn Grant – former Professor of Politics, Warwick University. Authority on the history of business associations, author of Business and Politics in Britain (1993), and co-editor of Oxford Handbook on Business and Government (2010).

Martyn Pellew – President of the British Chambers of Commerce and non-executive company director; representative of the members of the chambers of commerce and their national association, and vice-president of Eurochambres.

Andrew Lansley MP – former Deputy Director General, British Chambers of Commerce.

Chair: Professor Sir Peter Hall FBA, Emeritus Professor of Planning at University College London; one of the leading experts on local economies, industrial change and public policy.

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