Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought
We take liberalism to be a set of ideas committed to political rights and self-determination, yet it also served to justify an empire built on political domination. Uday Mehta argues that imperialism, far from contradicting liberal tenets, in fact stemmed from liberal assumptions about reason and historical progress. Confronted with unfamiliar cultures such as India, British liberals could only see them as backward or infantile. In this, liberals manifested a narrow conception of human experience and ways of being in the world.
Ironically, it is in the conservative Edmund Burke—a severe critic of Britain's arrogant, paternalistic colonial expansion—that Mehta finds an alternative and more capacious liberal vision. Shedding light on a fundamental tension in liberal theory, Liberalism and Empire reaches beyond post-colonial studies to revise our conception of the grand liberal tradition and the conception of experience with which it is associated.
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argument articulated associated basis Bentham boundaries Britain British Empire British liberal Burke's Cambridge chap chapter Chicago civilization civilizational claim coherence colonial commitment common conception concern constitute constraints context contrast cosmopolitanism crucial denied distinction Edmund Burke eighteenth emphasis ence Essay ethical exclusion exclusionary experience expression fact familiar freedom Harold Laski Hindu human Hume Ibid idea imagination imperial implications individual issue J. R. Seeley J. S. Mill James Mill John Stuart Mill language laws liberty limit Locke Locke's Lockean Louis Hartz Macaulay ment Mill's moral nation nature nineteenth century normative Oxford Partha Chatterjee perspective philosophic political identity political society possible practices precisely principle progress provisional psychological reason reference regarding relevant Second Treatise sense sentiments significance simply specific suggest teleology territory theoretical theorists theory thinkers thought Thoughts Concerning Education tion trans Treatise of Government understanding unfamiliar University Press utilitarianism Warren Hastings York