“A generation ago the influence of Fanon’s typology of empire ensured that one could only be either very much for or very much against the great imperial structures that disappeared piece by piece after the Second World War; now, after years of degeneration following the white man’s departure, the empires that ruled Africa and Asia don’t seem quite as bad. The perplexingly affirmative work of Niall Ferguson and David Armitage scants, if it doesn’t actually trivialise, the suffering and dispossession brought by empire to its victims. More is said now about the modernising advantages the empires brought, and about the security and order they maintained. There is far less tolerance for the disorder and tyranny that people like Nkrumah, Lumumba and Nasser instigated in the name of anti-colonialism. ”
Edward Said reviews Catherine Hall’s Civilizing Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, for the London Review of Books.