The publisher Rowman & Littlefield has recently succumbed to cancel culture. Rowman & Littlefield’s Lexington Books imprint had agreed to publish Bruce Gilley’s The Last Imperialist: Sir Alan Burns’ Epic Defense of the British Empire (October 2020) as the first of a planned series, Problems of Anti-Colonialism. About a month after the book was announced, a Change.org petition was begun by an avowed Maoist revolutionary and attracted several hundred co-signing aspiring censors. The petition demanded that Rowman & Littlefield cease publication of Gilley’s book. A mere two days later, Rowman & Littlefield removed both the book and the series from its website without explanation. The publisher has since released Dr. Gilley from his book contract and canceled the series, both also without explanation. Since then, Dr. Gilley has had the opportunity to present his side of the story in the Wall Street Journal. You may read his account here.
Rowman & Littlefield’s surrender furthers the assault on academic freedom in the United States and abroad. Bruce Gilley is a scholar of spotless personal and professional reputation. The academics and activists who sought to censor him acted on purely political grounds. Bruce Gilley is already persona non grata among authoritarian leftists because he published the article “The Case for Colonialism”—and re-published it with the National Association of Scholars after Third World Quarterly succumbed to a previous bout of cancel culture complaints and threats, ultimately deleting the article. The petition’s signers further seek to silence Professor Gilley because Problems of Anti-Colonialism will subject their ideas to critical inquiry:
Anti-colonialism emerged in the late 19th century as a critique of European empires and colonial administrations throughout the Third World. The attack on European imperialism grew into a post-World War II program of decolonization that transformed global politics. A narrative of celebratory decolonization spawned a broader program of change in domestic and international politics. Anti-colonial, decolonizing, and post-colonial narratives insisted on negative portrayals of Western colonialism, amnesia about non- Western colonialism, Western guilt about colonial pasts, rapturous accounts of decolonization, and utopian claims of post-colonial futures. The baleful empirical consequences of these ideas for human welfare have been either ignored, denied, or merely assumed away. Today, anti-colonial attitudes continue to constrain policy choices in the former colonial world. Governments in former colonial powers (mainly Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Italy) as well as in Anglo- settlement colonies (the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) face movements seeking to “decolonize” their modern institutions and policies, and to debase their historical records.
Problems of Anti-Colonialism aims to reignite debate through a critical examination of the anti-colonial, decolonizing, and post-colonial projects. It embraces contributions in fields as wide as history, area studies, international relations, political science, social science methods, public policy, comparative development, economics, education, culture, communications, sociology, anthropology, ethics, moral philosophy, and theology. By raising questions about the normative and empirical validity of anti-colonialism in all its forms, the series seeks to stimulate debate on issues, topics, and movements that have advanced in the absence of critical and scientific inquiry. In so doing, it invites fresh research into Western colonialism itself -- past, present, and future.
Gilley’s professionalism is not at issue. What is at issue is his freedom to speak and write freely—and the freedom of every scholar and interested citizen to hear and read his arguments. Gilley’s censors fear the facts—as does every sect that seeks to substitute its dogma for the truth.
We, the undersigned, affirm Bruce Gilley’s professional and personal character. We affirm the scholarly value of his work. We affirm the value of academic freedom, which must never be subordinated to ideologically motivated censorship.
We call on Rowman & Littlefield to apologize for its cancellation of The Last Imperialist, and of the Problems of Anti-Colonialism series.
Because the petition that led to the cancellation of The Last Imperialist and the book series to which it belongs presents an assault on Gilley’s character, we also call on Rowman & Littlefield to publish its own vindication of Dr. Gilley as an honest and reputable scholar. And because, by acting on that petition, Rowman & Littlefield showed its susceptibility to tactics of intellectual bullying, it is essential that the publisher re-commit itself to the principles of academic freedom.
We note that several individual signatories of the cancel culture petition against Gilley suggested a boycott of some sort against Rowman & Littlefield. Such boycotts are antithetical to academic freedom. An academic press ought to glory in publishing scholars who disagree vigorously with one another. Yet we also wish Rowman & Littlefield to realize that it has now compromised its reputation for impartiality and will have to work hard to regain the trust of the scholarly community.
Nigel Biggar. Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, Director, McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life, University of Oxford
John Bonnett, Associate Professor of History, Tier II Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities, Brock University
John T. Broom, Associate Program Director of Academics, Graduate History Programs, College of Graduate and Continuing Studies, Norwich University
Edward Friedman, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Eric Rasmusen, Professor, Business Economics and Public Policy, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
Stephen E Bennett, Emeritus Faculty, Political Science, University of Cincinnati
Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Education Policy, University of Edinburgh
Loyd S. Pettegrew, Professor Emeritus, Department of Communication, University of South Florida
Jonathan Myers, Emeritus Professor, Centre for Environmental and Occupational Health Research, School of Public Health & Family Medicine, University of Cape Town
Max Hocutt, Retired Professor of Philosophy, The University of Alabama
Rolf Erik Scott, Researcher of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen
Philip Carl Salzman, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, McGill University
John E. R. Staddon, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University
Frances Widdowson, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Justice, and Policy Studies, Mount Royal University
Andrew Pessin, Professor of Philosophy, Connecticut College
Jeffrey C. Kinkley, Retired Professor of History, St. John's University
Peter Baehr, Research Professor of Social Theory, Lingnan University
Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
Richard Landes, Chair, Council of Scholars, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Jay Bergman, Professor of History, Central Connecticut State University
Scott A. Metzger, Associate Professor, Social Studies Education, The Pennsylvania State University
Amy L. Wax, Robert Mundheim Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Rachel Fulton Brown, Associate Professor of History, The University of Chicago
Stephen Kershnar, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Philosophy, State University of New York at Fredonia
Alexander Riley, Professor of Sociology, Bucknell University
Peter Boghossian, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Portland State University
Eric Kaufmann, Professor of Politics, Birkbeck College, University of London
Frank Furedi, Emeritus Professor, Sociology Associate, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, University of Kent
Alex Myers, Research Fellow, School of Public Health, University of Cape Town