Diderot’s Criticism of Colonialism: Plea for Equality and Reciprocity among Peoples

  • Roberto R. Aramayo
Keywords: anticolonialism, cosmopolitanism, slavery, hospitality, trade


To whom do you pretend to make believe that a man can be the property of a sovereign, that a child can be the property of his father, that a woman can be the property of her husband, that a servant can be the property of his master, that a negro can be the property of the colonist? (Diderot, History of the Two Indies. OC III, 740). This paper addresses the issue how Diderot displays a free analysis thanks to anonymity in the History of Two Indies. I claim that the author criticizes without any roundabout style colonialism and slavery, focusing first on the fragments of this work attributed to Diderot. Second, I tackle the fact that Diderot argues in this work for the right to hospitality and breaks down the consequences stemming from trade under an inspiring view for contemporary analyses. I also attempt to cast light on Diderot’s view of other peoples and cultures traditionally considered ‘wild’, drawing a conclusion that they are useful to identify the boundaries of European bourgeois moral codes, usually considered ‘civilizised’. In this vein I also address in the paper the Addendum to the Journey of Bougainville, a key writing for appraising issues as anticolonialism and cosmopolitanism in Diderot’s thought.
Cri­ticising, Creating and Constructing: Equality, Reciprocity and Inclusivity