The Great British Empire Debate
Date Written: 26/01/2018
Year Published: 2018
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX22095
Malik discusses the complex issues of British colonialism, its many painful legacies and how it should be dealt with in such fields as academia and politics.
What of democracy and liberalism? The Enlightenment helped transform the intellectual and moral culture of Europe in the eighteenth century, and laid the ground for modern ideas of equality and liberty. 'All progressive, rationalist and humanist ideologies,' as the late Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm put it, 'are implicit in it, and indeed come out of it.'
But if the European Enlightenment was crucial to the development of progressive social ideals, European colonialism as a practice denied those ideals to the majority of people. It maintained slavery, suppressed democracy, and was rooted in a racialized view of the world. It was not colonialism but anticolonial movements that truly developed Enlightenment ideals. From the Haitian revolution of 1791, the first successful slave revolt in history, to the Quit India movement, to the liberation struggles of Southern Africa, the opponents of empire demanded that equality and liberty applied to them, too.