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Another response to Priyamvada Gopal's Article

The whole 'colonialism was a good thing - even the colonised liked it' routine continues:

Guardian Unlimited Books News In the balance

John Game responds:

Its completely unclear why sailors enjoying London should be taken as
evidence that Empire was a popular project or that polemics against the
same are 'simplistic'. Perhaps the Irish Famine was not such a bad thing
because, after all, it led to cosmopolitan movements of Irish people all
round the world, many of whom very much enjoyed their experiances from
London to Chicago. This recalls one of the stranger features of this
debate. Apparently colonialism was such a large historical entity that it
is simplistic to make judgements about it. Hidden here, are the
judgements that were made about colonialism both at the time (by one of
the largest anti-colonial movements in world history) and in its
immediate aftermath by historians and thinkers round the world. Are these
judgements about colonialism (which involved global networks of ideas,
associations, and literature) to be regarded as the product of a bunch of
nationalist silly-billies, to be dismissed with a few references to
selections from the Cambridge historical series, in earlier incarnations
official imperial historiography, and in later incarnations rather
notorious for treating the vast archive of Indian nationalist thought
from the 1880's onwards, as irrelevent? If Colonialism helped make our
world so to did anti-colonial nationalism (equally representing a vast
historical experiance which cannot be simplistically reduced to a few
simplistic polemics). Why the extraordinary asymmetry in these accounts,
and why the attempt to roll history backwards to an era when the
conquering and occupation of large parts of the world was held to be a
process beyond historical judgement?


Perhaps some of this has to do with an attempt to transform world history
into an adjunct of the British heritage industry and current crisis of
national identity in this rather small country seeking to find to
re-assert its relevence in the era of globalisation. One should take care
with such parochial agenda's as we have recently seen where such
re-assertions might lead us in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We need a more
engaged and critical account of the colonial experiance not the kind of
white wash of history increasingly being encouraged by both politicians
and some of our academic colleagues...


J