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Edmund Burke and the Conservative Logic of Empire (Berkeley Series in British Studies #10)

Daniel O'Neill


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Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (3/1/2016)


Edmund Burke, long considered modern conservatism’s founding father, is also widely believed to be an opponent of empire. However, Daniel O’Neill turns that latter belief on its head. This fresh and innovative book shows that Burke was a passionate supporter and staunch defender of the British Empire in the eighteenth century, whether in the New World, India, or Ireland.  Moreover—and against a growing body of contemporary scholarship that rejects the very notion that Burke was an exemplar of conservatism—O’Neill demonstrates that Burke’s defense of empire was in fact ideologically consistent with his conservative opposition to the French Revolution. Burke’s logic of empire relied on two opposing but complementary theoretical strategies: Ornamentalism, which stressed cultural similarities between “civilized” societies, as he understood them, and Orientalism, which stressed the putative cultural differences distinguishing “savage” societies from their “civilized” counterparts. This incisive book also shows that Burke’s argument had lasting implications, as his development of these two justifications for empire prefigured later intellectual defenses of British imperialism. 

Praise For Edmund Burke and the Conservative Logic of Empire (Berkeley Series in British Studies #10)

"O’Neill’s analysis is a model of scholarship at its best: immersed in both original and secondary sources, cogently argued, and comprehensive in scope."
— E.J. Eisenach

"O'Neill's close reading of Burke's writings is a very necessary contribution to our knowledge of eighteenth century imperial ideology."
— Canadian Journal of History

"Edmund Burke and the Conservative Logic of Empire is a book with a mission. O’Neill makes a passionate case for Burke’s conservative pro-imperialism while remaining judicious and broadly sympathetic in his engagement with opposing viewpoints. The book is carefully researched and deserves merit for incorporating all three flashpoints of Burke’s encounter with the British imperial expansion in the last third of the eighteenth century."
— The Review of Politics

"O'Neill establishes Burke's defense of empire in detail, and it is a fascinating juxtaposition to most of the colonial rhetoric that has been parsed by political theorists."
— Perspectives on Politics

University of California Press, 9780520287839, 272pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 2016

About the Author

Daniel I. O’Neill is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. He is the author of The Burke-Wollstonecraft Debate: Savagery, Civilization, and Democracy.