The Limits of Liberalism and the Case of Mysore
Mid-Victorian liberal discourse offered two incompatible modes of legitimating sovereignty beyond England’s borders: a “Greater British” idealization of white settlement and trade; and the imperial “civilizing mission.” Neither discourse provided stable ground for the formalized “New Imperialism” that emerged in the wake of crises like the Indian “mutiny” and the Jamaica insurrection. The debate over Mysore, entailing the efforts of an aging maharajah to preserve his dynasty, illustrates how the lack of a coherent vision of empire was eventually answered by Tory neo-feudalism. The New Imperialism proffered an aestheticized neo-feudal relation to appeal to Britain’s newly enfranchised working-class men. While the Tories recast India as the proverbial jewel in the empress’s crown, so-called liberal imperialism foundered over its numerous contradictions. Liberal intellectuals of the 1870s and 1880s became noticeably anxious, authoritarian, and racist as well as prone to ad hominem demonization of “the Jew premier”.
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