Biggar defends the British Empire against “the canker of imaginary guilt”

Book review by Andrew Gimson of Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning for ConservativeHome. 3 February 2023.

Nigel Biggar is not without friends. His new book is endorsed by, among others, Vernon Bogdanor, Ruth Dudley-Edwards, Niall Ferguson, Amanda Foreman, Zareer Masani, Matthew Parris, Andrew Roberts, Tirthankar Roy and Robert Tombs.

These testimonials are printed, as is the modern way, in the first few pages of the book. Anthony Trollope’s dictum, “What can be got by touting among the critics is never worth the ignominy,” issued posthumously in his Autobiography, is not one that appeals to publishers.

In this case, one can see why they thought it prudent to advance under cover of a guard recruited from the acknowledged authorities.

Biggar relates how in 2017 he read Bruce Gilley’s magnificently provocative article, The Case for Colonialism, originally printed in Third World Quarterly, available here on the History Reclaimed website, and commended it in a piece for The Times, after which “all hell broke loose”.

This is the kind of row that can destroy an academic career …. 

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