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British Liberalism and Empire Revisited

28 April 2015
San Francesco - Via della Quarquonia 1 (Classroom 2 )
The Lecture will reconsider the relationship between Liberalism on the one hand and empire and imperialism on the other, with particular focus on British Liberalism during the heyday of the British Empire, the nineteenth century. Scholarly attention to the relaionship between Liberalism and empire/ImperiaLism has increased strikingly in the last two decades or so and works dealing with this relationship are steadily proliferating. A major issue of contention among scholars working in this field has been whether there was anything inherent in Liberalism itself that led it inevitably to embrace Imperialism, or whether the endorsement of imperialist projects and attitudes on the part of major liberal thinkers (e.g. Mill, Tocqueville, et al.) was contingent. The lecture will first argue in favour of the latter position and reject claims to the effect that Liberalism is inextricably linked to Imperialism. Second, it will be argued that there were several very different attitudes towards empire and Imperialism even among the liberal thinkers usually lumped together as agreeing in their attitudes. Finally, the Lecture will analyse the rationale of the attitudes towards empire of a number of important British liberals or Whigs from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century (Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, Thomas Babington Macaulay, John Stuart Mill, Richard Cobden, John Bright, Henry Maine, James Fitzjames Stephen, Goldwin Smith, Charles W. Dilke, J. R. Seeley, John Morley, Frederic Harrison, J. A. Hobson, Alfred Zimmern et al.).
Varouxakis, Georgios - Queen Mary - University of London - London