This essay explores the writings of Edward Said, Daniel Gordon, and Alexis de Tocqueville; each of these historians reflected on the concept of colonialism and its possible social, cultural, and political ramifications. Said is remembered as a prominent post-colonialist, and this is reflected in his criticism of European exoticization of the East in his book Orientalism. European notions of superiority, matched with a desire for intellectual accumulation of other cultures' knowledge, propelled colonialism forward in the nineteenth century. Alexis de Tocqueville's accounts on France's colonial mission challenge Said's notion of European superiority; Tocqueville was a civil servant, politician, and historian who held mixed feelings towards French colonial efforts. Tocqueville was concerned with French intentions and efficiency; it was important for colonizers to try to understand the people they sought to rule. Daniel Gordon, a critic of postcolonial scholarship, tries to dissect the language of colonial discourse employed by intellectuals like Said and Tocqueville, highlighting the contested space of reflections on colonialism in the twenty-first century. This work synthesizes the writings of these three intellectuals to craft a coherent understanding of colonialism, "civilization," and "Orientalism" concerning European interactions with non-Europeans.



Included in

History Commons