Africa as a Living Laboratory: Empire, Development, and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870-1950

Bernard Porter writes:

British imperialism may have been oversold. Anti-imperialists tend to blame it for most of the problems of the modern world; a rather smaller band of apologists credits it with spreading modernity. These views are not incompatible: either way it is seen as crucial. Most of the popular debate centres on whether it was (or is) a force for good or for ill. Little consideration is given to the possibility that it wasn’t much of a force at all. By means of imperialism, the story goes, the West came to dominate what Niall Ferguson calls ‘the Rest’. In order to do this it had to be pretty ruthless: confident of its own cultural and ideological values, and keen to impose them on others.

(LRB 10 May 2012)