While the need for a history of liberalism that goes beyond its conventional European limits is well recognized, the agrarian backwaters of the British Empire might seem an unlikely place to start. Yet specifically liberal preoccupations with property and freedom evolved as central to agrarian policy and politics in colonial Bengal. Liberalism in Empire explores the generative crisis in understanding property’s role in the constitution of a liberal polity, which intersected in Bengal with a new politics of peasant independence based on practices of commodity exchange. Thus the conditions for a new kind of vernacular liberalism were created. Andrew Sartori is Associate Professor of History at NYU, author of Bengal in Global Concept History: Culturalism in the Age of Capital (2008), and coeditor (with Samuel Moyn) of Global Intellectual History (2013).
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Image courtesy of interviewee