The case for colonialism

I reproduce below just the abstract and a bit of the Introduction of a most "incorrect" academic article.  It provoked a huge outcry from the usual suspects and was promptly withdrawn by the journal that originally published it.  At least as far as Britain's African colonies are concerned, there is little doubt that they have steadily gone downhill in all sorts of ways since independence -- so it is long overdue for a systematic survey of that

Note, for instance, a recent report that Zimbabwe is again on the point of collapse, with a worthless currency and food shortages creeping in again.  As Rhodesia under British rule, Zimbabwe was a prosperous and well-run country that was a major exporter of grains and other agricultural produce --JR

Bruce Gilley


For the last 100 years, Western colonialism has had a bad name. It is high time to question this orthodoxy. Western colonialism was, as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found, using realistic measures of those concepts. The countries that embraced their colonial inheritance, by and large, did better than those that spurned it. Anti-colonial ideology imposed grave harms on subject peoples and continues to thwart sustained development and a fruitful encounter with modernity in many places. Colonialism can be recovered by weak and fragile states today in three ways: by reclaiming colonial modes of governance; by recolonising some areas; and by creating new Western colonies from scratch.


For the last 100 years, Western colonialism has had a bad name. Colonialism has virtually disappeared from international affairs, and there is no easier way to discredit a political idea or opponent than to raise the cry of ‘colonialism’. When South African opposition politician Helen Zille tweeted in 2017 that Singapore’s success was in part attributable to its ability to ‘build on valuable aspects of colonial heritage’, she was vilified by the press, disciplined by her party, and put under investigation by the country’s human rights commission. It is high time to reevaluate this pejorative meaning. The notion that colonialism is always and everywhere a bad thing needs to be rethought in light of the grave human toll of a century of anti-colonial regimes and policies.


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