Welcome to Scribd. Sign in or start your free trial to enjoy unlimited e-books, audiobooks & documents.Find out more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
2Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
British Race and National Identity

British Race and National Identity

Ratings: (0)|Views: 31|Likes:
Published by Gabriel Lambert

More info:

Published by: Gabriel Lambert on Mar 15, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOCX, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

02/02/2013

pdf

text

original

 
Gabriel Lambert British 6 Race and National Identity 
To what extent did ideas of race inform the construction of national identity in Britain in the 19thcentury?
Take up the White Man's burden--Send forth the best ye breed--Go bind your sons to exileTo serve your captives' need;To wait in heavy harness,On fluttered folk and wild--Your new-caught, sullen peoples,Half-devil and half-child.
1
 But no amount of beauty or refinement could have made an entanglement between Good and herself 
[a local Kukuana woman from a fictitious African tribe]
a desirable occurrence; for, as sheherself put it Can the sun mate with the darkness, or the white with the black? 
2
 
These extracts from
The White Mans Burden
and
King Solomons Mines
neatly capture one of thekey divisions within the discourse of race. While Kipling suggests that the new-caught, sullenpeoples are half-child, ready to be introduced and educated in the ways of civilization by the whiteman, Haggard implies the incompatibility of the two races  indeed even with refinement such anentanglement would never be desirable. These contrasting perspectives on race, one retaining thehumanistic impulses from the abolition of slavery with its paternalistic concern to remove thesavage from squalor and the other justifying its theory of racial incompatibility with scientificanthropological data were a key part of both Victorian and Edwardian racial discourse. But they alsohint at the sheer complexity of trying to pin down a link between race and national identity  if therewas fundamental disagreement about the very meaning of racial difference, how could a unitary,universal national identity be constructed that incorporated ideas on race? The plurality of racialtheories surely suggests one must talk of nationalities. Moreover, the issue is made moreproblematical when one tries to pin down any form of British identity  some theorists weredismissive of the Celtic Welsh, Scottish and Irish and preferred to construct an idealised Anglo-Saxon racial type while others found the whole concept of nationalism to be an atavistic one,beneath Britains status as an imperial power. Not only was the popular feeling aroused bynationalism an indication of an inferior race but any idea of a single nation was dangerously closeto radical democracy. All of these issues reflect tensions that were felt just as keenly in VictorianBritain, tensions that should be drawn out rather than generalised about since ideas about both raceand nationalism were discourses rather than concrete ideas, constantly being redefined according tothe contemporary events. The historian has a further trap to avoid. One should not replace thebiological determinism of the 19th century with an equally oppressive cultural, historical,physiological or linguistic determinism  a failure to address change over time leaves one with long-term continuities deeply rooted in psychology and culture that were (and presumably
are
)impervious to change.It is fairly straightforward to point to some fairly consistent ideas in most 19th century racialtheories: the idea that humans were divisible into races with fixed characteristics that defiedmodification by external circumstances; that intellectual and moral capacities were unevenly spreadwithin races; and that mental endowments were bound with physical racial traits that displayed adegree of consistency within a racial group.
3
But it is more important to illustrate the sheer plurality
1
 
The White Mans Burden
, Rudyard Kipling, 1899, was urging America to take up the White Mans burden inthe Phillipines after Spanish-American war.
2
Haggard, H. R,
King Solomons Mines
Penguin Popular Classics 1994, p279
 
3
ed. H.E. Augstein Race: the Origins of an Idea (1996),
 
Gabriel Lambert British 6 Race and National Identity 
of racial ideas (or ideas dismissing race as a useful taxonomic concept) and their change over time.For instance, up to around 1840 the popular culture surrounding racial difference was linked withthe abolitionist movement and the evangelical element stressed the commonality of human decentin the theory of monogenesis based on a literal reading of the Old Testament.
4
This belief providedthe rationale behind the abolition of the slave trade and then slavery itself, and persisted in a feelingof paternalism displayed in the belief in the ability for the savage to be lifted out of his degradedlife by the white man (and especially by missionary work). The white races were still superior to theothers, but there was at least the possibility that the latter might be lead from their backwardnesswith the help of the more advanced and racially superior civilizations.This paternalistic theme evenprovided a justification of imperial expansion for some  Emile Blanning, an apologist for empiredescribed the aim of conquest as the initiation, under European guidance, of millions of Negroesinto superior conditions of existence.
5
 However this paternalistic account was challenged from the 1850s by a more divisive account of racial difference, initially provided by Robert Knox who argued that assimilation was a futile attempt races either survived or died out as independent units. Intermarriage was made impossible by theinnate dislike of other races and the fact that descendents of any hybridization would always fallback on the stronger race to sustain its racial strength.
6
Intermarriage proved to be a difficult issuewell beyond 1850 as the passage by Haggard demonstrates. There were fears for the degradation of the British stock if such intermarriage was allowed (Knox even thought that Americans werealready in the process of degrading because of the adverse foreign climate). Thus races were notonly fundamentally different, but attempts at raising the inferior races up were futile. Knoxobviously represents only a single thinker and cannot be taken as representative of popular culture,but paternalistic ideas also gave way to scientific naturalism in the latter part of the 19th centuryand led to a wider adoption of a belief in irreconcilable racial difference as justification for moreauthoritarian control  this concept sought out the natural inclinations of man (and races) asobjective laws and ignored the role of consciousness and the will and unscientific subjectivities,allowing the destruction of peoples to be seen as natural and freeing from the perpetrators fromany blame.
7
 Why did such extreme racial justifications of conquest emerge in this period? The answer may havebeen economic  initially the abolitionist movement had been tied to optimism about the ability of worldwide free trade to encourage underdeveloped countries to release their labour to producegoods for the world economy. Such optimism faded as alternatives to slavery such as indenturedlabour proved to be the only way of gaining the kind of cheap labour plantations required tomaintain a healthy profit margin. This was compounded by the Indian Rebellion from 1857 and thenthe Jamaican revolt of 1865  both suggested that the inferior races could not be trusted todiscipline themselves  more direct control was needed. Race may also have been a retrospectivejustification for Britains new-found world-leading economic position. Thus racial discourse wasfuelled by material demands for labour and political uprisings, suggesting that race was in fact asuperficial category fashioned to cover the realities of imperial rule (in a similar way that Marxargued the evils of civil society were covered over by Christianity in
On the Jewish Question
). Thusbefore even turning to races impact on nationality, it is possible that race as a concept on its ownis vacuous and relies on more concrete content to give it applicability and weight.Yet these two sets of ideas about race and civilization are only part of a much wider discourse onprogress. Firstly, Macaulays
History of England 
was so successful because it blended a civilisational
4
S. West (ed.) The Victorians and Race (1996) p22
5
Blanning in Betts, R. F., The Scramble for Africa  Causes and Dimensions of Empire (1966) p1
6
Knox in ed. H.E. Augstein Race: the Origins of an Idea (1996) p253
7
S. West (ed.) The Victorians and Race (1996) p23
 
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.
8
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 Mills 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 
.
9
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
not 
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
dominant 
race
10
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
Saturday Review 
commented that The Bethnal Green poor...are a caste apart,a race of whom we know nothing
11
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.
12
In a fascinatingpiece the
Daily Telegraph
called white workers Negroes  there are a good many negroes inSouthampton who have the taste of their tribe for any disturbance that appears safe.
13
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
social 
behaviour of the working classes, but that the protesters clearly rejected theidea that Eyres 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.
14
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 MajorWilsons Last Stand and provide living imperial icons to rival the reported martyrdom of GeneralGordon.
15
It also gave visible examples of the other against which all British people could claimcommon cultural traits. Such spectacles were surely classless  regardless of ones domestic social
8
 
P. Mandler Race and Nation in mid-Victorian thought in S. Collini et al. (eds),History, Religion, Culture (2000) p235
9
 
Ibid 
p 237
10
 
Ibid,
p83
11
 
Ibid,
p93
12
Back, L and J. Solomos (eds.), Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader p14
13
Malik, K., The Meaning of Race. Race, History and Culture in Western Society p98
14
 
ed. Pascal Blanchard ... [et al.] Human zoos : science and spectacle in the age of colonial empires (2008) p29
 
15
 
Ibid 
p262

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->