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This article examines Bentham's contribution to anti-colonial thought in the context of the development of the British radical movement that attacked colonialism on the grounds that it advantaged what Bentham called the ‘Few’ at the expense of the ‘Many’. It shows that Bentham was influenced as much by Josiah Tucker and James Anderson as by Adam Smith. Bentham's early economic critique is examined, and the sharp changes in his arguments after 1800 assessed, in the context of the American and French Revolutions and the effects of British industrialization. The article also highlights the importance of Bentham's writings inspired by the Spanish colonial crisis of the early 1820s. They show developments in his economic analysis and include some very acute discussions of the psychological satisfactions that elites could gain from colonialism. The article ends with a brief comparison between Bentham and later radical thinkers to put his ideas in context.
(Online publication February 15 2011)