nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Sun Oct 9 18:00:03 UTC 2011
My guess is that the OED has this one on its To Do list. But there are also problems with the OED's treatment of the early development of the word. There's a very good review of its history, which I think is also useful for its general discussion of the role of lexical evidence in historical analysis, in Mark F. Proudman's "Words for Scholars: The Semantics of “Imperialism” (Jnrl of the Historical Society, Sept 2008). Proudman observes that the earliest uses in the English context were really extensions of sense (1) ("the rule of an emperor, esp. when despotic or arbitrary") and were pejoratives aimed specifically at Disraeli's high-handedness and one-man rule, with implicit comparison to Napoleon III: "'Imperialism,' for Disraeli’s critics, denoted an ostentatious, propagandistic, and politically partisan imperial policy, as morally unserious as it was unworthy.... 'Imperialism' first came into use with something like its present meaning in the 1870s, in order to name the !
political policies and propaganda of Benjamin Disraeli. The term had at that point an air of false, trumped-up, self-vaunting music-hall braggadocio, long on boasts but short on substance." This would have been the presumed meaning in the OED's first cite for sense 2 (1878: "This infernal Afghan business is the natural consequence of Jingoism, Imperialism, ‘British interests’, [etc.].") as well as the second cite from 1881. It was only later that Disraeli managed to flip the word's appraisive valence to make the word largely commendatory, at least until the Boer War flipped it back again.
BTW Proudman gives an instructive quotation from the Conservative Colonial Secretary, Lord Carnarvon in 1878:
We have been of late much perplexed by a new word, “Imperialism,”
which has crept in among us . . . I have heard of Imperial policy, and
Imperial interests, but Imperialism, as such, is a newly coined word to me
> From: Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
> Date: October 8, 2011 2:47:22 PM PDT
> Subject: Imperialism
> The OED's entry for imperialism seems outdated.
> Definition 3 says, "Used disparagingly. In Communist writings: the imperial system or policy of the Western powers. Used conversely in some Western writings: the imperial system or policy of the Communist powers." The last citation is 1964.
> Definition 2 says, " 2. The principle or spirit of empire...In the United States, imperialism was similarly applied to the policy of extending the rule or influence of the American people over foreign countries, and of acquiring and holding distant dependencies, in the way in which colonies and dependencies are held by European states."
> Definition 2 uses the past tense ("was") and the last citation is _1914_.
> The Seattle Times today provides two citations, one for "imperial" and one for "imperialism."
> "Antiwar demonstrators join Occupy Seattle protesters," by Jeff Hodson and Jack Broom,http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016440758_westlake08m.html
> Holding a cane and a megaphone and wearing a white cap that said, "Veterans for Peace," Mercer said, "We have opposed every American imperial war since 1950, when we invaded North Korea."
> Mercer is Lyle Mercer.
> Others at the rally railed against the "trillions of dollars" spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the more than 700 U.S. military bases across the world.
> "If that isn't imperialism," said one speaker, "I don't know what is."
> Benjamin Barrett
> Seattle, WA
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