The Folly of Liberal Imperialism

Much of Dalrymple’s early writings were focused on demonstrating the negative effects of European imperialism on Africa, and this new column in Taki’s Magazine looks at England’s occupation of Egypt, under the quarter-century rule of pro-consul Lord Cromer:

Cromer was not entirely unsuccessful. He restored both order and Egyptian finances, the collapse of which was the ostensible reason for the occupation in the first place. He justified the exercise of his power by pointing to the public works carried out under his ultimate direction and by the improvement in the peasantry’s condition. Nationalist opposition to him was, in his opinion, almost entirely the ideology of the landowning class, bitter at the curbs on its own abusive power. He had little doubt that it was right for the Western powers, particularly his own, to read political lessons about how to run their affairs to backward nations such as Egypt which, however, would take a long time to learn them. He thought British power would last forever and did not at all foresee the catastrophic political incompetence that would lead to its swift evaporation—admittedly inevitable in any case.

Cromer was what was then known as a liberal imperialist: He genuinely and sincerely wanted to do good, especially for the oppressed and impoverished peasantry. He believed that a British form of government was best for Egypt in the abstract, however distant its concrete achievement might be.

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