The introduction challenges the materialism of historical scholarship and claims that assimilation was not just an instrument of empire. At the heart of the project of assimilation were ideas: ideas of human perfectibility and of progress, and the idea of the modern state. The articulation of these ideas through the progressive theory of history would provide the ideological support to the European imperial project of universal civilization. The introduction finally challenges conventional methodological approaches and calls for more suppleness in historical writing. It demonstrates the importance of the longue durée for understanding the resilience of assimilation as well as the emergence of race.
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