By Jennifer Pitts
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 eu empires as unjust in addition to politically and economically disastrous for the conquering international locations. by way of the mid-nineteenth century, although, the main fashionable 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 turned extra triumphalist, much less nuanced, and not more tolerant of cultural distinction. even as, imperial enlargement in another country got here to be visible as a political venture that may help the emergence of reliable liberal democracies inside 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 signify now not an important characteristic of liberal proposal yet a remarkable departure from perspectives shared via accurately these late-eighteenth-century thinkers whom Mill and Tocqueville observed as their forebears. Fluently written, A flip to Empire deals a singular evaluation of contemporary political suggestion and overseas justice, and an illuminating viewpoint on carrying on with debates over empire, intervention, and liberal political commitments.
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Additional resources for A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France
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. Marshall argues that while both “slavery and the East India company appeared to have won reprieves in the 1790s,” when Britain was preoccupied with Jacobinism and then Napoleon in France, opposition to slavery soon regained its former vigor, while “many sections of British opinion .
Smith, in contrast, did not attribute societal development to enhanced mental capacities on the part of individual members of a society; his are resolutely complex explanations at the level of social interaction. 38 CHAPTER 2 Similarly, Smith did not regard savages as incapable of forming the abstract ideas necessary to the institution of property; he argued that they simply had not yet experienced the needs that would lead them to institute extended property rights. In discussing the development of property as an institution, Smith does assert that people “at ﬁrst .
And yet the crucial role played by material factors that were not, from the actors’ perspective, obviously connected to the political situation means that no human agents can take primary credit for bringing about the beneﬁcial development. 116–17). 28 While their power in society was not itself a mark of moral or political progress (indeed, the power of the clergy was in many ways destructive of good government, he argues), in the case of slavery it secured a great political good. ” 29 Other thinkers, then, would argue that political and civil freedoms in Europe sprang from a particularly morally advanced culture.