This essay reconsiders the intellectual relationship between Leonard and Virginia Woolf by focusing on the congruence of their writings on empire. It argues for a trans-generic approach by reading Virginia Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out (1915), alongside Leonard’s Empire and Commerce in Africa (1920), for which Virginia carried out extensive research. Leonard has been recognised by scholars as one of the foremost anti-imperialists of the interwar period, but more nuanced attention to the resonance between their work reveals that Virginia anticipated the focus on economic imperialism so crucial to Empire and Commerce. Turning on a phrase that echoes across their writing—‘buying cheap and selling dear’—the piece explores the ways in which the Woolfs, in the tradition of JA Hobson, exposed and explored the violent capitalist motivations behind colonialism in the search for cheap labour, new markets and raw goods. Furthermore, in their differing ways, Leonard and Virginia Woolf were attuned to the connections between cultural production and imperial trade networks.