Enlightened Dissent: The Voices of Anti-Imperialism in Eighteenth Century Britain

Title: Enlightened Dissent: The Voices of Anti-Imperialism in Eighteenth Century Britain
Authors: Gaiero, Andrew
Date: 2016
Abstract: This dissertation explores and analyzes anti-imperial sentiments in Britain throughout the long eighteenth century. During this period of major British state formation and imperial expansion, there were a surprisingly large number of observers who voiced notable and varied concerns and opposition towards numerous overseas ventures, yet who have not since received significant attention within the historical record. Indeed, many critics of British imperialism and empire-building, from within Britain itself, formed extensive and thoughtful assessments of their own nation’s conduct in the world. Criticism ranged widely, from those who opposed the high economic costs of imperial expansion to those worried that a divine retribution would rain down upon Britain for injustices committed by Britons abroad. Such diversity of anti-imperial perspectives came from a clearly enlightened minority, whose limited influences upon broader public opinions had little effect on policies at the time. Successive British administrations and self-interested Britons who sought their fortunes and adventures abroad, often with little regard for the damage inflicted on those whom they encountered, won the political debate over empire-building. However, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, the perspectives of many of these individuals would increasingly become highly regarded. Later generations of reformers, particularly “Little Englanders”, or classical liberals and radicals, would look back reverently to these critics to draw inspiration for refashioning the empire and Britain’s position in the world. These eighteenth century ideas continued to present powerful counter-arguments to the trends then in place and served to inspire those, in the centuries that followed, who sought to break the heavy chains of often despotic colonial rule and mitigate the ravages of war and conquest.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/34962
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -