a1 University of Cambridge
This paper is about the emergence of new political idioms in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Britain, and how this was closely involved with the complexities of British imperial experience in India. In particular, I shall concentrate on the radical rhetoric of Utilitarianism expressed by Jeremy Bentham, and especially by James Mill. This rhetoric was an attack on the revitalized conservatism of the early nineteenth century, which had emerged in response to the threat of the French revolution; but the arena for the struggle between this conservatism and Utilitarianism increasingly became defined in relation to a set of conflicting attitudes towards British involvement in India. These new political languages also involved the formulation of aesthetic attitudes, which were an important component of British views on India. I shall try to show how these attitudes, or what we might call the politics of the imagination, had a lot to do with the defining of cultural identities, with which both political languages were preoccupied.