By Jennifer Pitts
A dramatic shift in British and French rules approximately empire spread out within the sixty years straddling the flip of the 19th century. As Jennifer Pitts exhibits in A flip to Empire, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and Jeremy Bentham have been between many at the beginning of this era to criticize eu empires as unjust in addition to politically and economically disastrous for the conquering countries. by way of the mid-nineteenth century, even if, the main well known British and French liberal thinkers, together with John Stuart Mill and Alexis de Tocqueville, vigorously supported the conquest of non-European peoples. Pitts explains that this mirrored an increase in civilizational self-confidence, as theories of human development grew to become extra triumphalist, much less nuanced, and not more tolerant of cultural distinction. even as, imperial growth in another country got here to be noticeable as a political venture that will support the emergence of solid liberal democracies inside of Europe. Pitts indicates that liberal thinkers often celebrated for respecting not just human equality and liberty but additionally pluralism supported an inegalitarian and decidedly nonhumanitarian foreign politics. but such moments symbolize now not an important characteristic of liberal notion yet a remarkable departure from perspectives shared by way of accurately these late-eighteenth-century thinkers whom Mill and Tocqueville observed as their forebears. Fluently written, A flip to Empire deals a singular review of contemporary political idea and overseas justice, and an illuminating standpoint on carrying on with debates over empire, intervention, and liberal political commitments.
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Additional info for A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France
The contrast with the fate of the antislavery movement highlights one important reason that criticism of British imperial expansion faded after the 1790s. Justiﬁcation of British imperial rule from that point, through much of the nineteenth century, began to rest primarily on arguments that Britain brought (and was alone capable of bringing) good government to India. The outstanding violence and corruption of British actions in India during the previous decades—military campaigns against formidable Indian enemies, the vast private fortunes gained—gave way to more subtle forms of oppression such as onerous taxation and export policies, policies that were justiﬁed as part of a system of improvement in which the beneﬁts of secure property and the rule of law were said to replace despotic indigenous governments.
41 Although a portrait of Asian societies as stagnant was beginning to emerge, when eighteenth-century Europeans compared their own society with those of China or India, it did not seem obvious to them, as it did to French and British observers several generations later, that their own societies were dramatically more progressive, wealthier, or superior or more enlightened in their social and political practices. Moreover, colonial rule itself was probably crucial for Britain’s rapid economic development in the nineteenth century, primarily by easing land constraints shared across Eurasia and providing voracious demand for European manufactured goods.
37 Thus, while Burke could insist on “the Evils which arose from a System of sacriﬁcing the Being of that Country [India] to the Advantage of this,”38 nineteenthcentury European observers were not prepared to believe that the colonial system either intended to or actually did sacriﬁce Indian interests to British. Indeed, many (including both James and John Stuart Mill) held that British rule in India was in fact costly to Britain, but that it was nonetheless justiﬁed by the great beneﬁts it conferred on its Indian subjects.
A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France by Jennifer Pitts