This book explores the interplay between liberalism and imperialism in Second Empire France. By examining the political dimension of imperial expansion and the power of words in shaping public opinion, it sheds light on the ways in which liberal ideas developed in the nineteenth century. In contrast to Britain, French imperialism in the third quarter of the nineteenth century was fostered by a Bonapartist regime that liberals needed to fight in order to build their own political brand. The author argues that the 1860s were not so much a period of ‘liberal empire’ in France as has traditionally been suggested, since liberals were in fact more conveyers of political change rather than supporters of the regime. To demonstrate how French liberals succeeded in configuring an alternative political option, the book explores their attitudes to the expanding colonial empire of Napoleon III in the 1850s and 60s through the analysis of parliamentary debates, the press and published texts. Providing three in-depth case studies on Bonapartist expansion projects in Algeria, Cochinchina and Mexico, the book provides new insights on the foundations of the liberal position on imperialism, and the intellectual outlooks and belief systems that informed these views. Analysing discourses and ideas, as opposed to facts and policies, this book presents a new perspective on the nature of the French Second Empire and illustrates how this shaped a specific liberal political culture in France.