"Nation, Race, and Empire," George Robb

British Culture and the First World War by George Robb.

Chapter One, “Nation, Race, and Empire”
During WWI, “Nationalism attempted to focus conflict outward–against a German foe inevitably constructed as a degenerate, barbaric ‘throwback’…As successful as such ideas were in garnering support for the war effort, they created problems of their own since ‘the nation,’ as defined, clearly could not accommodate the diverse citizenry of Britain itself, let alone its vast, diverse Empire,” p. 5.

“For contemporaries, the Great War represented not merely a national, but a ‘racial’ struggle. After all, since the nineteenth century, the concepts of ‘nation’ and ‘race’ had bled into each other. Victorian anthropologists and ethnographers had formulated racial hierarchies which placed Europeans on a higher plane of evolutionary development than Asians or Africans, but within Europe itself there was further jockeying for position…The English, Germans, Irish…were all understood to be separate races unto themselves, who possessed innate mental qualities…that were carried in the blood and revealed in the lineaments of the face,” p. 7.

“Britain’s military and imperial competition with Germany was bound up with post-Darwinian anxieties of racial degeneration and ‘the survival of the fittest’,” p. 7.

“Eugenics, the psuedo-science of heredity and selective breeding, had gained tremendous influence among British intellectuals in the generation before the war. As such it lent a spurious scientific authority to racial and class hierarchies and reinforced social Darwinist notions of an inevitable struggle between the races…it is not surprising that British society became saturated with Germanophobia,” p. 8.

“…the line between anti-German sentiment and hatred of all foreigners was easily erased,” p. 9.

Against attacks on foreigners: see Westminster Gazette and Manchester Guardian. Inciting attacks: John Bull, East London Observer. Sympathetic to rioters against foreigners: Evening News, Daily Mail.

British colonies
“Unequal, even racist, treatment of imperial soldiers who fought and died for a British victory increased colonized people’s resentment of the Empire. Likewise, Britain’s authoritarian rule over its colonies proved difficult to reconcile with the claim that it was defending democracy and the rights of small nations like Belgium. The Empire called upon subject peoples to defend the institutions of their subjugation. That so many of them were willing to do so highlights the complexities of imperial relationships,” p. 11.

p. 12
Germany pre-war population 68 million, fielded 13 million troops
Britain pre-war population 45 million, fielded 6 million troops; plus 1 million Indians; 500,000 Canadians; 300,000 Australians; 100,000 New Zealanders; 80,000 [white] South Africans. “In addition, hundreds of thousands of Indians, Africans, Chinese, and West Indians served in military labor units outside their nations.”

“Germany, however, delighted in pointing out that the defender of Belgium was the oppressor of Ireland and India,” p. 13.

p. 15 Extensive propaganda to promote idea of loyal colonists.

Dominions: Canada, Australia, etc.. Dependencies: India, African colonies, West Indies.

“The white colonial elite also opposed blacks joining the Army, fearing it would give them aspirations above their station and lead to the erosion of racial boundaries,” p. 21. There was a segregated West Indian regiment.

By 1915 some 138,000 Indian soldiers on Western front–by end of 1915, withdrawn from France and relocated to Middle East, pp 22-23.

Irish rebellion, the Easter Rising, occurred during WWI.

“…imperial subjects who worked and fought for British victory were unlikely to simply resume their old ‘subject’ status once the war was over,” p. 29. Postwar riots involving immigrants in Britain.

“Of course, colonized peoples hardly needed to take part in the war to experience racism, but their wartime service proved crucial in convincing many of them that no amount of devotion to their British governors would grant them the racial status apparently necessary for full citizenship in the Empire. Perhaps the war’s greatest tragedy was its tendency to promote an exclusive concept of ‘Britishness’, narrowly defined along ethnic and racial lines, rahter than an inclusive ‘Britishness’ based on a common citizenship of shared rights and responsibilities,” p. 31.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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