Gabriel Lambert British 6 Race and National Identity
perspective (a belief in the superiority of British
cultural and institutional
achievements) with analmost romantic story of the heroic role of institutions and statesmen.
This demonstrates that abelief in British national superiority did not have to rest on racial ideas and could instead beconceived of in purely institutional terms. John Stuart Mills theory of Ethology outlined in his
System of Logic
suggested that the formation of national character deserved to be a science in itsown right even though Mill speculated on the potential link between physical head size andintelligence in
On the Subjugation of Women
, the core of such a science would be investigating theenvironmental, educational and governmental influences on national character as opposed to racialones, an idea that was followed up by Buckle in his
History of Civilization in England
Thus not onlywas racial discourse divided, but it was not even necessarily the main theme involved in a discussionof progress and civilization (which had been discussed in depth since the Stage Theory of theScottish Enlightenment) let alone national theory.Such theories did
only develop in response to foreign races. Indeed one of the first essays onrace by Count Arthur Gobineau on the
Inequality of Races
in 1789 argued that civilizations are equalto the traits and spirit of the
and that within every society there were three race the dominant, conquering aristocracy, the bourgeoisie who were fortunate enough to have bredwith the nobility in the past, and the common people who had tainted noble blood with that of negroes in the south and Finns in the North. This was a theme that was brought out in the Britishpress racial theory was by no means only applied to foreign races but to the working classes aswell. For instance, the
commented that The Bethnal Green poor...are a caste apart,a race of whom we know nothing
while the higher echelons of society would visit India, Egypt andthe East End of London to view the strange, the primitive and the exotic creatures.
In a fascinatingpiece the
called white workers Negroes there are a good many negroes inSouthampton who have the taste of their tribe for any disturbance that appears safe.
They weresaid to be organising a counter-rally to the banquet prepared for Edward Eyre who had put down aJamaican revolt using particularly brutal means. This reveals not only that racial discourse could beapplied to the
behaviour of the working classes, but that the protesters clearly rejected theidea that Eyres use of martial law was justified and thus were implicitly also rejecting the attachedracial theory that argued Jamaicans were savages that needed a greater level of aggression to bebrought into line than white race would. Such internal application of racial theory to the workingclass surely confirms that a unified racial discourse was not present in a Victorian Britain in whichsocial class was in many respects a more important division than race.Even if racial ideas were fragmented and some were even applied one must consider the extent towhich the different ideas informed ideas about nationality. One interesting case study is provided bythe human zoos, such as the Kafir Kraal at the Greater Britain Exhibition in London in 1899.
On thesurface the national racial message was clear the enactments of the Matabele War in the Kraaldemonstrated the ability of Britain to conquer, tame and then export other peoples to relive MajorWilsons Last Stand and provide living imperial icons to rival the reported martyrdom of GeneralGordon.
It also gave visible examples of the other against which all British people could claimcommon cultural traits. Such spectacles were surely classless regardless of ones domestic social
P. Mandler Race and Nation in mid-Victorian thought in S. Collini et al. (eds),History, Religion, Culture (2000) p235
Back, L and J. Solomos (eds.), Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader p14
Malik, K., The Meaning of Race. Race, History and Culture in Western Society p98
ed. Pascal Blanchard ... [et al.] Human zoos : science and spectacle in the age of colonial empires (2008) p29