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Nigel Biggar: the academic who dared to say Rhodes should stay

Friday, 20 January 2023 - 11:15am

When the Oxford theologian wrote that the British Empire was not all bad, he faced a backlash. Here he defends his views to Andrew Billen

'Five years ago Nigel Biggar feared that his 40-year career was about to meet a sudden and unpleasant end. Academia had cottoned on that the Oxford University theologian and priest thought that the British Empire had not been all bad. He aired this apparently anodyne thought in a column in The Times in November 2017. The article was Biggar’s third thought crime, the first being his resistance to a noisy (and ultimately unsuccessful) campaign to remove the imperialist Cecil Rhodes’s statue from an Oxford college wall. The second was a series of conferences he had held on Ethics and Empire, a project some academics thought should be strangled at birth. As Biggar puts it, all hell broke loose.' 


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Images: John Angerson for The Times; Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images