New PDF release: A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain

By Jennifer Pitts

ISBN-10: 0691115583

ISBN-13: 9780691115580

ISBN-10: 0691127913

ISBN-13: 9780691127910

A dramatic shift in British and French principles 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 first and foremost of this era to criticize ecu empires as unjust in addition to politically and economically disastrous for the conquering international locations. by way of the mid-nineteenth century, despite the fact that, the main popular 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 growth grew to become extra triumphalist, much less nuanced, and not more tolerant of cultural distinction. whilst, imperial enlargement overseas got here to be visible as a political undertaking that may support the emergence of reliable liberal democracies inside of Europe. Pitts exhibits that liberal thinkers frequently celebrated for respecting not just human equality and liberty but in addition pluralism supported an inegalitarian and decidedly nonhumanitarian overseas politics. but such moments symbolize no longer an important characteristic of liberal inspiration yet a outstanding departure from perspectives shared by means 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 concept and overseas justice, and an illuminating point of view on carrying on with debates over empire, intervention, and liberal political commitments.

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J. 34 Similarly, Hugh Mulligan, the author of a 1788 work entitled Poems Chiefly on Slavery and Oppression and dedicated to Wilberforce, linked British oppression of West Indian slaves with British depredations in India, Ireland, and Africa in a series of four dialogues in verse. 35 It is striking that this marriage of “humanitarian” causes had fallen apart by the end of the eighteenth century. Whereas the opposition to slavery spread in the early decades of the next century beyond the coterie of reformers and intellectuals that had first led the movement, to be taken up by much wider circles, evangelical and otherwise, such unqualified criticism of British actions in India faded by the late 1790s.

This page intentionally left blank Part One CRITICS OF EMPIRE This page intentionally left blank Two Adam Smith on Societal Development and Colonial Rule ADAM SMITH WAS ONE of the eighteenth century’s most innovative and sophisticated theorists of societal development, one who believed that while commercial society was by no means perfect, it made possible material comfort, improvement of laws and government, and refinement of manners unavailable in earlier stages of society. At the same time, Smith articulated a moral and social theory that was broad-minded in its analysis of unfamiliar societies and practices and careful to avoid presumptions of European cultural or moral superiority.

111) As with the emergence of modern “benevolence,” Smith’s argument is that varying treatment of slaves results not from differences in their masters’ moral perspicacity, but from a change in situation. Increased opulence, he proposes, enables people to behave with greater sympathy for most others around them. But it means greater misery for slaves, because wealthy masters who live at a greater remove from their slaves are better able to ignore their condition. Here, as elsewhere, by undermining the notion that laws and morals necessarily become better, more just, or more rational alongside the “progress of improvement,” Smith avoids the selfcongratulation such assumptions produced in later thinkers.

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A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France by Jennifer Pitts


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