Category Archives: Peter Cain

Peter Cain

Since so much of Bentham’s critique of European colonial policies remained unpublished or difficult of access until recent times his contribution to the evolving debate on them has been seriously underrated. His Spanish writings were published only fifteen years ago and have yet to be properly evaluated: but, as this article has tried to show, they took his own earlier analysis of the roots of policy, and that of his predecessors, much further than before. Indeed, […] in many ways, these writings, especially those that give a close analysis of the benefits that elites received from colonialism, represent the most acute and innovatory aspects of his thought in this field. When they are added to his better-known economic analyses of colonialism written between the 1780s and early 1800s, and set against the broad currents of liberal and radical questioning of the causes and consequences of empire across two centuries, it would be no exaggeration to say that Bentham made one of the greatest contributions to anti-colonial literature anywhere in the Western world and one which in some ways was never improved upon in Britain. His work has much to offer historians in their quest for a better understanding of Europe’s imperial past.

Peter Cain, ‘Bentham and the Development of the British Critique of Colonialism’, Utilitas, vol. 23, no. 1 (March, 2011), p. 24