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Unpublished Paper

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I examine the negotiations among the UK and its colonies to allocate the cost of operating the Eastern Mail Service (UK to India, Hong Kong and Australia) among national post offices benefitting from its service. Four key sets of negotiations are identified during the period 1866 – 1905. I consider how negotiations were affected by the changing institutional context of the postal system and relationships between the UK and its colonies during this period; in particular, the negotiations capture the confrontation between the liberal social and economic philosophies that had risen to prominence within the UK and the existence of empire. The results demonstrate that parties to the negotiations had an intuitive sense of the cost allocations that would be consistent with economic liberalism (and modern “as if” economic theories of cost allocation) but varied from this baseline in favour of settler colonies versus non-settler colonies, and an Imperial centric view of the benefits of the mail network. The emergence of cost allocations approximating current theoretical norms occurred within an emerging institutional context that favoured political independence between nations and liberalized international trade.