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This paper outlines the development of world trade from 1800 to 1938. It relies on a newly compiled database, which, unlike previous works (e.g. Lewis 1981), reports series of imports and exports at current and constant prices and at current and constant (1913) borders for almost all existing polities. In the first sections, we outline the estimation methodology and assess the reliability of the series (now available at http://www.uc3m.es/tradehist_db). World trade grew very fast throughout the «long» 19th century, but growth rates were higher before 1870. We measure the effects of war and the Great Depression on total trade and trade by continent and polity. Within this general upward trend, the performance of polities differed by geographical location, level of development, political status and factor endowment. Finally, we estimate trends in the share of primary products, which declined until World War One, with an acceleration in the second half of the 19th century.