Teodoro Tagliaferri

Legitimizing the British Empire. Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism and Civilizing Mission

  • Abstract

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Keywords: Empire and Nationality; British Internationalism; Liberal Orientalism.

The essay addresses the peculiar meanings conferred on the idea of nation within the context of the various attempts at redefining in statal national terms the imperial identity of Britain which characterized the tradition of liberal imperialism. The analysis focuses upon the evolution of a specific form of pan-Britannicism which emerged since the 1880s and strove both to emphasize the political potentialities of an assumed ethnolinguistic and cultural homogeneity between the white colonies and the motherland and to credit the British global state with a providential vocation to the unification of mankind. India's later inclusion in the pan-Britannicist rhetorics, which went so far as to invest the "Raj" with the mission of encouraging the birth of a pan-Indian nation state based on the cross-fertilization of European and Asian civilizations inside the British Commonwealth of Nations, not only showed the final adoption by colonial authorities of a variant of Orientalism aiming to distinguish itself from the most blatant kinds of cultural differentialism, but was premised also on a profound revision in a pluralist sense of the categories according to which late Victorian imperialists had interpreted nationality with reference to the composite metropolitan core of the Empire and its neo-European overseas peripheries.

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