Alibis of Empire: Henry Maine and the Ends of Liberal by Karuna Mantena

By Karuna Mantena

Alibis of Empire provides a singular account of the origins, substance, and afterlife of overdue imperial ideology. Karuna Mantena demanding situations the concept Victorian empire used to be basically legitimated by way of liberal notions of development and civilization. in truth, because the British Empire received its farthest achieve, its ideology used to be being dramatically reworked through a self-conscious rejection of the liberal version. The cave in of liberal imperialism enabled a brand new culturalism that under pressure the hazards and problems of attempting to "civilize" local peoples. And, hand in hand with this shift in pondering was once a shift in perform towards types of oblique rule. As Mantena exhibits, the paintings of Victorian felony pupil Henry Maine used to be on the middle of those momentous adjustments. Alibis of Empire examines how Maine's sociotheoretic version of "traditional" society laid the foundation for the culturalist common sense of past due empire. In charting the move from liberal idealism, via culturalist rationalization, to retroactive alibi inside nineteenth-century British imperial ideology, Alibis of Empire finds a remarkable and pervasive dynamic of contemporary empire.

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In key imperial scandals of the period, for example, the response to the Indian Mutiny or Rebellion of 1857, the Governor Eyre controversy of 1865, and the Ilbert Bill crisis of 1883, advocates of liberal imperialism found themselves consistently on the losing side of the argument. Here, I begin with the Eyre controversy, not least because Mill himself played a prominent role in this public debate. Moreover, in many of the debates, Millian liberalism would become the avowed target for critics from Carlyle to Stephen, who specifically saw his brand of “sentimental liberalism” as inimical to political stability both at home and abroad.

The liberal manifesto of reform included 30 C H A P T E R O N E the expansion of education (where missionaries in particular took the lead) and a liberal economic policy (support of laissez-faire and the breaking up of “feudal” tenures). 43 In terms of aspirations the liberal age was the first in which eventual self-government by Indians was first contemplated,44 for the morality of rule was premised precisely on the grounds that once Britain completed its educative role in improving the morals and habits of the natives, giving them the capacity to exercise their liberty, its paternalist duty would be over.

Without law and order, which was Britain’s great export, India would dissolve into the chaos and anarchy in which it was supposedly found.

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