The British Empire and Us: Nigel Biggar and James Heartfield disagree
Manage episode 358859676 series 2515685
The British Empire and Us: a civilised disagreement with Nigel Biggar and James Heartfield
Over the last five to ten years, factious arguments about the British empire, about toppling the monuments that mark it, about making reparations for it, and about to teach it in schools, have swept through our public discourse. This is a relatively new thing. We didn’t used to talk about the British empire so much and when we did, it was in a more positive and nostalgic light. Today there is a daily drip drip of the wrongs of empire.
In this episode, Tiffany is joined by ethicist Nigel Biggar, the author of Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning, and James Heartfield author of Britain's Empires: A History - 1600-2020 for a discussion about the rights and wrongs of empire.
Biggar aims to set the record straight on empire, to defend it, and to show why not every critique is right. Heartfield is an anti-imperialist who has long condemned empire but finds himself surprised and disquieted to have won the argument.
They examine what the British empire was in its different iterations; ask whether is was racist and to what extent violence was essential part of it. (For this part they refer to Caroline Elkin's superb Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire which argues that it was); reflect on the role of history and whether it can and should be moral, and, finally, - this is a longer than usual episode - discuss why the turn towards seeing everything in the past is not as radical as it first appears.