Bruce Gilley’s The Last Imperialist: Sir Alan Burns’s Epic Defense of the British Empire is probably the last great work of British imperial history that will ever be published. The field has been overtaken by political correctness, which holds as an unquestionable pillar of orthodoxy that empires, especially white European empires, are bad. There are still some excellent living practitioners of imperial history, such as Niall Ferguson and Jeremy Black (both of whom contribute favorable blurbs to the present volume). But once they are dead, no one is likely to replace them.

Gilley, a professor of political science at Portland State University, knows better than most the systematic political abuse that deters scholars from writing worthwhile imperial history today. In 2017, he experienced an early instance of “cancel culture” when his peer-reviewed article “The Case for Colonialism” was withdrawn by the journal Third World Quarterly after an eruption of left-wing outrage. In the fall of 2020 his newest book, a biography of colonial administrator Sir Alan Burns, was surreptitiously deleted from the catalogue of its original publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, thanks to a hostile petition circulated by a Canadian academic who blogs under the title “Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Mayhem!” The rights were later acquired by Regnery.

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