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Home > News and views > Ouse Valley Branch: Talk assessing the ethics of Empire

Ouse Valley Branch: Talk assessing the ethics of Empire


University of Oxford


Our speaker, Professor Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, Oxford University, is leading a five-year project attempting to achieve a balanced assessment of Empire (not just the British). In his talk he focused mainly on ours, attitudes to which have tended to change over the years from popular pride to doubt and guilt.

He reflected on five topics: what is racism, interference in native cultures, violence, economic exploitation and lack of democracy.

Our Empire was ramshackle (!) – also humanitarian, rapacious, incremental. accidental – and the rule of law was more important than democracy.

Should we apologise?  Not quite – but rather give reassurance that we understand when and where we were in the wrong.

Unfortunately, the project is proving controversial and has raised issues of free speech and “incorrect” views. This much needed research will surely result in an impartial and balanced report of both the good and the bad that our former Empire deserves. We are grateful to Professor Biggar for his excellent, balanced overview and wish him and his team well.

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