1. Rationale

By definition, ‘empire’ is imperialist; imperialism is wicked; and empire is therefore unethical. Nothing of interest remains to be explored. This project begs to differ.

2. Purposes & Leadership

Ethics & Empire is led by Professor Nigel Biggar of the University of Oxford and Professor Krishan Kumar of the University of Virginia.

3. Colloquia

The project will run for six years from 1 June 2017 to 31 August 2023. It will take the basic form of five invitation-only workshops.

The posts below offer a chronology of updates and milestones related to the Ethics & Empire project.

Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford
  • The Ethics and Empire Project

    Since 2017 the McDonald Centre has hosted Ethics and Empire, a six-year interdisciplinary project led by Professor Biggar and Professor Krishan Kumar of the University of Virginia. This project gathers colleagues from Classics, Oriental Studies, History, Political Thought, and Theology in a series of annual workshops to measure apologias and critiques of empire against historical data from antiquity to…

  • Responding to Critics of ‘Ethics and Empire’

    The 30 November publication of Prof Nigel Biggar’s essay on Britain’s colonial past in The Times, together with the announcement on this website of the McDonald Centre’s “Ethics and Empire” project, has provoked strong reactions from a number of students and academics in Oxford.  Common Ground Oxford, a group of undergraduates protesting the ‘structures of racism, classism and colonialism’ that purportedly…

  • ‘Ethics and Empire’ and Freedom of Speech

    In an article for the first issue in 2018 of the Oxford Magazine, Nigel Biggar takes stock of the controversy surrounding the McDonald Centre’s “Ethics and Empire” project and considers in particular its implications for the academic freedom of students as well as professors.  The Oxford Magazine is not an official publication of the University of Oxford, but an independent…

  • Further Developments on ‘Ethics and Empire’

    Following Nigel Biggar’s extended response in The Times to the Open Letter criticising the “Ethics and Empire” project,  a number of influential figures have emerged to express their support for his proposed reappraisal of Britain’s colonial legacy.  On 27 December, the former chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, wrote a letter to The Times sharply criticising the claim that Prof. Biggar was asking ‘the…

  • Censorship and the Complexities of Empire

    Last year (2017) several scholars denounced the McDonald Centre’s Ethics and Empire project and called for its termination. Recently, referring to such actions, David Sanderson of The Times newspaper quoted Trevor Phillips, former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who observed a trend to reduce acceptable scholarship in the Academy to a narrow range of focal themes and…

  • Correcting Inaccuracies: Ethics and Empire

    On 26 September 2018 the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published an article by Paul Ostwald, “Wie günstig! Da kommen plötzlich drei Kriege mehr aus”, which was highly critical of the “Ethics and Empire” project, which Nigel Biggar runs in the McDonald Centre. You can find the article here. Mr Ostwald’s article contained a series of inaccuracies. Professor Biggar therefore wrote a…

  • The Empire Wasn’t All Bad

    Jeppe Matzen recently interviewed Nigel Biggar for the Danish periodical Weekendavisen. The interview, “Imperiet var ikke kun slemt [The Empire was not only bad]”, was published 19 July 2019. The original article can be read here.

  • Biggar Awarded CBE

    On 31 March 2022, Anne, the Princess Royal, invested Nigel Biggar with the rank of Commander of the British Empire, in recognition of his ‘services to higher education’. Title image: ‘Insignia of a Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ by PicturePrince, CC BY-SA 3.0