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Science, race relations and resistanceBritain, 1870-1914$
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Douglas A. Lorimer

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780719033575

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719033575.001.0001

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The colour question: ‘The greatest difficulty in the British Empire’ (1900–14)

The colour question: ‘The greatest difficulty in the British Empire’ (1900–14)

(p.208) Chapter Six The colour question: ‘The greatest difficulty in the British Empire’ (1900–14)
Science, race relations and resistance

Douglas Lorimer

Manchester University Press

Commentaries on the ‘colour question’, 1900-14, marked a new departure. Post-war reconstruction in South African War posed the most immediate problem, but observers also anticipated a longer term, global crisis. Engaged in the ferment of ideas in Edwardian London, participants moved between political advocacy, journalism and the academy, often as exponents of the new social sciences. Colonial administrators, trained in the classics, recognised that race relations were a creation of modern history, and they anticipated that the future would be one of increased racial strife. Some observers turned to psychology, renaming colour prejudice ‘race instinct’, to explain the intensity of white racism. Others were sceptical about instinct, and analysed the dimensions of race relations in light of the transformations effected by colonial labour in modernising economies, and by the spread of democratic citizenship and the new demands of colonial nationalists. Most participants in this discussion presumed the inequality of races, but recognised that institutionalised racism threatened the viability of the empire. A dissenting minority, still attached to an archaic racial egalitarianism, engaged in resistance to the regressive advance of systemic racism.

Keywords:   social sciences, South Africa, race instinct, race and sex, colonial administration, race and class, multi-racial modernity

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