SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Ince, Onur Ulas (2021) 'Adam Smith, Settler Colonialism, and Limits of Liberal Anti-Imperialism.' The Journal of Politics, 83 (3). pp. 1080-1096.

Text - Accepted Version
Download (458kB) | Preview


Recent scholarship has claimed Adam Smith’s frontal attack on the mercantile system as a precocious expression of liberal anti-imperialism. This article argues that settler colonialism in North America represented an important exception and limit to Smith’s anti-imperial commitments. Smith spared agrarian settler colonies from his invective against other imperial practices like chattel slavery and trade monopolies because of the colonies’ evidentiary significance for his “system of natural liberty.” Smith’s embrace of settler colonies involved him in an ideological conundrum insofar as the prosperity of these settlements rested on imperial expansion and seizure of land from Native Americans. Smith navigated this problem by, first, predicating colonial “injustice” on conquest, slavery, and destruction and, second, describing American land as res nullius. Together, these conceptual definitions made it possible to imagine settler colonies as originating in nonviolent acts of “occupation without conquest” and embodying “commerce without empire.”

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
ISSN: 00223816
Copyright Statement: This is the version of the article accepted for publication in The Journal of Politics, 83 (3). pp. 1080-1096. published by University of Chicago Press Re-use is subject to the publisher’s terms and conditions
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2022 16:58

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item