Advertisement

Was the British Empire racialist or racist?

  • Robert Johnson
Part of the Histories and Controversies book series (HICO)

Abstract

To many, any distinction between racist and racialist may be a little academic. However, the differences are important. Race is used to denote any group of people, united by common descent and identified by skin colour and physiognomy. Common bonds are also usually expressed in terms of shared language, history, culture or outlook. In the nineteenth century, race became a social scientific tool to explain not only diverse characteristics and types, but also levels of development. It became a universal tool of categorisation, but also the key to understanding customs and behaviour.1 Racialism was thus a term used to describe differences between races.2 Racism, by contrast, is a belief that some races are inherently superior, and that others are inferior and those races therefore require different treatment. Stereotyping of temperamental qualities, intelligence, capacity for work and the ability to create a valuable culture typically follow. Explanations for racism vary: from economic needs to find and harness an underclass of slave labourers, to Satre’s explanation that racism was sexually motivated by a fear that another race would take its women.3

Keywords

Labour Supply Late Eighteenth Century British Rule Nationalist Movement Racial Hierarchy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    See Les Back and John Solomos, eds, Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader (London, 2000).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Neil MacMaster, Racism in Europe (Basingstoke, 2001), pp. 1–11.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Michael Crowder, West Africa under Colonial Rule (London, 1968), pp. 11–12.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Mark Ferro, Colonisation: A Global History (London and New York, 1997), p. 18.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Mary Bennett, The Ilberts in India, 1882–1886 (London, 1995), p. 50.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    David Livingstone, Expedition to the Zambesi and Its Tributaries (London, 1975), p. 141.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Cited in H.G. Rawlinson, The British Achievement in India (London, 1948), p. 104.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    M.E. Chamberlain, Decolonisation (2nd edn, London, 1995), p. 50.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    W. David McIntyre, British Decolonisation, 1946–1997 (London, 1998), p. 22.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    Robin Neillands, Fighting Retreat: The British Empire, 1947–1997 (London, 1996), p. 1.Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    Richard Holmes, Firing Line (London, 1985), p. 400.Google Scholar
  12. 21.
    Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac, Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Asia (London, 1999), p. 92.Google Scholar
  13. 22.
    Charles Allen, Tales from the South China Seas (London, 1983), p. 65.Google Scholar
  14. 24.
    David Cannadine, Ornamentalism (London, 2001).Google Scholar
  15. 30.
    Alice Pennell, Pennell of the Afghan Frontier (London, 1914).Google Scholar
  16. 31.
    Lawrence James, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India (London, 1997), p. 456.Google Scholar
  17. 34.
    Wm Roger Louis, ‘Introduction’, in Judith Brown and Louis, eds, The Oxford History of the British Empire IV (Oxford, 1999), pp. 31–2.Google Scholar
  18. 37.
    Ian Hernon, The Savage Empire (London, 2000), p. 86.Google Scholar
  19. 38.
    P.J. Marshall, The British Empire (Cambridge, 1996), p. 373.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert Johnson 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Johnson

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations