History Department, University of Exeter
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Our free online course Empire: The Controversies of Imperialism has now been running two weeks; between them, the participants have already made thousands of comments, often arguing their respective points of view quite vigorously. One persistent theme of debate is the degree to which it is possible to pass judgements on the actions of people in the past, who were operating on the basis of standards that are different from those held today. This is an important and difficult issue for historians in general, although the contentious topic of ‘Empire’ seems to throw it into particular relief. Everyone can agree that we shouldn’t reach assessments that are anachronistic; it is much harder to reach agreement on what constitutes anachronism.
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