Vindicate Dr. Bruce Gilley's Personal and Professional Reputation

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Vindicate Dr. Bruce Gilley's Personal and Professional Reputation

This petition had 4,551 supporters
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Jed Lyons and

Why this petition matters

The publisher Rowman & Littlefield has recently succumbed to cancel culture. Rowman & Littlefield’s Lexington Books imprint had agreed to publish Bruce Gilley’s The Last Imperialist: Sir Alan Burns’ Epic Defense of the British Empire (October 2020) as the first of a planned series, Problems of Anti-Colonialism. About a month after the book was announced, a petition was begun by an avowed Maoist revolutionary and attracted several hundred co-signing aspiring censors. The petition demanded that Rowman & Littlefield cease publication of Gilley’s book. A mere two days later, Rowman & Littlefield removed both the book and the series from its website without explanation. The publisher has since released Dr. Gilley from his book contract and canceled the series, both also without explanation.

Since then, Dr. Gilley has had the opportunity to present his side of the story in the Wall Street Journal. You may read his account here.

Rowman & Littlefield’s surrender furthers the assault on academic freedom in the United States and abroad. Bruce Gilley is a scholar of spotless personal and professional reputation. The academics and activists who sought to censor him acted on purely political grounds. Bruce Gilley is already persona non grata among authoritarian leftists because he published the article “The Case for Colonialism”—and re-published it with the National Association of Scholars after Third World Quarterly succumbed to a previous bout of cancel culture complaints and threats, ultimately deleting the article. The petition’s signers further seek to silence Professor Gilley because Problems of Anti-Colonialism will subject their ideas to critical inquiry:

"Anti-colonialism emerged in the late 19th century as a critique of European empires and colonial administrations throughout the Third World. The attack on European imperialism grew into a post-World War II program of decolonization that transformed global politics. A narrative of celebratory decolonization spawned a broader program of change in domestic and international politics. Anti-colonial, decolonizing, and post-colonial narratives insisted on negative portrayals of Western colonialism, amnesia about non- Western colonialism, Western guilt about colonial pasts, rapturous accounts of decolonization, and utopian claims of post-colonial futures. The baleful empirical consequences of these ideas for human welfare have been either ignored, denied, or merely assumed away. Today, anti-colonial attitudes continue to constrain policy choices in the former colonial world. Governments in former colonial powers (mainly Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Italy) as well as in Anglo- settlement colonies (the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) face movements seeking to “decolonize” their modern institutions and policies, and to debase their historical records.

Problems of Anti-Colonialism aims to reignite debate through a critical examination of the anti-colonial, decolonizing, and post-colonial projects. It embraces contributions in fields as wide as history, area studies, international relations, political science, social science methods, public policy, comparative development, economics, education, culture, communications, sociology, anthropology, ethics, moral philosophy, and theology. By raising questions about the normative and empirical validity of anti-colonialism in all its forms, the series seeks to stimulate debate on issues, topics, and movements that have advanced in the absence of critical and scientific inquiry. In so doing, it invites fresh research into Western colonialism itself -- past, present, and future."

Gilley’s professionalism is not at issue. What is at issue is his freedom to speak and write freely—and the freedom of every scholar and interested citizen to hear and read his arguments. Gilley’s censors fear the facts—as does every sect that seeks to substitute its dogma for the truth.

We, the undersigned, affirm Bruce Gilley’s professional and personal character. We affirm the scholarly value of his work. We affirm the value of academic freedom, which must never be subordinated to ideologically motivated censorship.

We call on Rowman & Littlefield to apologize for its cancellation of The Last Imperialist, and of the Problems of Anti-Colonialism series.

Because the petition that led to the cancellation of The Last Imperialist and the book series to which it belongs presents an assault on Gilley’s character, we also call on Rowman & Littlefield to publish its own vindication of Dr. Gilley as an honest and reputable scholar. And because, by acting on that petition, Rowman & Littlefield showed its susceptibility to tactics of intellectual bullying, it is essential that the publisher re-commit itself to the principles of academic freedom.

We note that several individual signatories of the cancel culture petition against Gilley suggested a boycott of some sort against Rowman & Littlefield. Such boycotts are antithetical to academic freedom. An academic press ought to glory in publishing scholars who disagree vigorously with one another. Yet we also wish Rowman & Littlefield to realize that it has now compromised its reputation for impartiality and will have to work hard to regain the trust of the scholarly community. 


Initial Signers:

Nigel Biggar

Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology

Director, McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life

University of Oxford


John Bonnett

Associate Professor, History

Tier II Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities

Brock University


John T. Broom

Associate Program Director of Academics, Graduate History Programs

College of Graduate and Continuing Studies

Norwich University


Edward Friedman

Professor Emeritus, Political Science

University of Wisconsin-Madison


Eric Rasmusen

Professor, Business Economics and Public Policy

Kelley School of Business

Indiana University


Stephen E Bennett

Emeritus Faculty, Political Science

University of Cincinnati


Lindsay Paterson

Professor, Education Policy

University of Edinburgh


Loyd S. Pettegrew

Professor Emeritus, Department of Communication

University of South Florida


Jonathan Myers

Emeritus Professor, Centre for Environmental and Occupational Health Research

School of Public Health & Family Medicine

University of Cape Town


Max Hocutt

Retired Professor, Philosophy

The University of Alabama


Rolf Erik Scott

Researcher, Social Anthropology

University of Bergen


Philip Carl Salzman​

Emeritus Professor, Anthropology

McGill University


John E. R. Staddon

James B. Duke Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Psychology and Neuroscience

Duke University


Frances Widdowson

Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Justice, and Policy Studies

Mount Royal University


Andrew Pessin

Professor, Philosophy

Connecticut College


Jeffrey C. Kinkley

Retired Professor, History

St. John's University


Peter Baehr

Research Professor, Social Theory

Lingnan University


Steven Pinker

Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology

Harvard University


Richard Landes

Chair, Council of Scholars

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East


Jay Bergman

Professor, History

Central Connecticut State University


Scott A. Metzger

Associate Professor, Social Studies Education

The Pennsylvania State University


Amy L. Wax

Robert Mundheim Professor of Law

University of Pennsylvania Law School


Rachel Fulton Brown

Associate Professor, History

The University of Chicago


Stephen Kershnar

Distinguished Teaching Professor, Philosophy

State University of New York at Fredonia


Alexander Riley

Professor, Sociology

Bucknell University


Peter Boghossian

Assistant Professor, Philosophy

Portland State University


Eric Kaufmann

Professor, Politics

Birkbeck College

University of London


Frank Furedi

Emeritus Professor, Sociology Associate, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies

University of Kent


Alex Myers

Research Fellow, School of Public Health

University of Cape Town

Petition Closed

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