Embodiment of the Evil? Reconsidering Colonialism and the British Empire


Book launch: Nigel Biggar: Colonialism - A Moral Reckoning (William Collins, 2023)

Nigel Biggar, Emeritus Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at the University of Oxford, has recently published his latest book, Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning. This Sunday Times bestseller is a unique analysis of Western colonialism, aimed at repainting the commonly-held negative image of the British Empire as the embodiment of evil. The Author is not uncritical of the British Empire and recognises the significance of its wrongdoings, including the violence and injustice inflicted by the colonialists. However, he argues that to simply collect all the facts that portray a historical institution in a dark light and present them as the complete picture is to distort history. Instead, he invites the reader to see and judge colonialism in all its complexity, taking into account all sides of the coin.

Covering all the major critiques of colonialism, from racism and slavery to cultural and economic oppression, exploitation and violence, the book asks the question posed by Reg in the Monty Python classic: "What have the Romans done for us?" What, if any, positive effects did colonialism have? Biggar concludes that it did bring with it certain benefits in terms of modernisation, socio-economic transformation, governance and more.

Can we speak of positive effects of an oppressive regime? What do oppressed societies owe to the British Empire? How should we morally judge colonialism? The book Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning has provoked a wide range of reactions, and the author himself will be present at the book launch event in Budapest to answer questions.

- Nigel Biggar (University of Oxford)
- David Martin Jones (Danube Institute)
- Marie Kawthar Daouda (Oriel College / University of Oxford)
- John O’Sullivan (Danube Institute)