paul moon on utilitarianism, trusteeship, and the treaty of waitangi


Paul Moon, ‘The Influence of ‘Benthamite’ Philosophies on British Colonial Policy on New Zealand in the Era of the Treaty of Waitangi, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (Published online: 03 Sep 2014).

Most of the recent historiography on the British presence in the South Pacific in the first half of the nineteenth century rightly reflects the dichotomy of private commercial enthusiasm for imperial expansion set against a backdrop of official hesitance and vacillation over any possible enlargement of the empire—a stance manifested in Britain’s stance on New Zealand prior to 1840. However, such analyses, which emphasise the reactive, unplanned and incremental extension of British interests and involvement in New Zealand, tend to bypass consideration of the particular philosophical influences that helped to shape British colonial policy during this time. This article surveys those social philosophies formulated by Jeremy Bentham—and advanced by his followers—which prescribed a distinct form of colonial intervention and government. It focuses specifically on Bentham’s utilitarianism, and his notions of colonial trusteeship, and explores how these ideas insinuated their way into British colonial policy relating to New Zealand in the 1830s, culminating in the Treaty of Waitangi (1840).

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