No diatribe

May 24, 2018

In his letter “End ideologues’ reign over imperial history” (3 May), Zareer Masani accuses us of “character assassination”. To use his words, we take strong exception to this unsubstantiated allegation. Nowhere in anything either of us has written is there an attack on anyone’s character. Nor do we convey a “blanket condemnation of empire”. We have both argued repeatedly against both nostalgic defence and simple denunciation of empires.

Masani may very well disagree with us about the historical significance of current arguments over the “case for colonialism”. But we invite readers to compare the tone of his letter with that of our article “Don’t mistake nostalgia about the British empire for scholarship” (Opinion, 26 April), and to decide for themselves which is a “diatribe” conveying “hysteria”.

James McDougall
Fellow and tutor in modern history
Trinity College, University of Oxford

Kim A. Wagner
Senior lecturer in British imperial history 
Queen Mary University of London

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