February 22, 2017

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

By Jennifer Pitts

A dramatic shift in British and French rules approximately empire opened up 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 international locations. by way of the mid-nineteenth century, besides the fact that, the main favourite 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 turned extra triumphalist, much less nuanced, and not more tolerant of cultural distinction. while, imperial enlargement out of the country got here to be noticeable as a political venture that will support the emergence of reliable liberal democracies inside of Europe. Pitts indicates that liberal thinkers often celebrated for respecting not just human equality and liberty but in addition pluralism supported an inegalitarian and decidedly nonhumanitarian foreign politics. but such moments symbolize no longer an important characteristic of liberal notion yet a awesome 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 bargains a unique review of recent political proposal and foreign justice, and an illuminating viewpoint on carrying on with debates over empire, intervention, and liberal political commitments.

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Extra resources for A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France

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Conversely, the stagnation attributed to the Indian economy by nineteenth-century Britons was due in part to the effects of British rule itself. Thus when nineteenth-century Britons contrasted their own progressive society with backward India, they were observing, on both sides of the comparison, phenomena that had not existed before 1790 and that were partly the consequences of colonial rule. 40 Kenneth Pomeranz’s painstaking comparisons of economic data in the eighteenth century suggest that standards of living, mortality and fertility rates, quality of manufactures, and technological innovativeness were comparable in the most economically advanced areas of Asia (the Yangzi valley, parts of Japan, and Bengal) and Europe (England and the Netherlands).

49 As a result of these features of nineteenth-century philosophies of history and theories of progress, the very idea of linear development or progress has been described as imperialist in character. And yet Adam Smith’s theory of history and his broader moral and political theory show that there were eighteenth-century understandings of historical progress that could be developmental while resisting any implication that non-Europeans ought to be excluded from ordinary standards of political respect, inclusion, or reciprocity.

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. Colonial expansion violated many principles of Smith’s economic theory: it diverted capital away from where it would “naturally” be invested; it effectively taxed the majority of the nation not involved in the colonial trade for the benefit of a few, and it imposed great military expenses on the metropolitan citizenry.

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