We Ask for British Justice: Workers and Racial Difference in Late Imperial Britain
Laura Tabili is the first historian to examine the concrete connections between the legacy of imperialism and the problem of racial antagonism inside Britain. Previous efforts to explain ethnic conflict have often resorted to pessimistic "commonsense" assumptions about the universality of xenophobia and racism; here Tabili recovers the historical conditions under which racial inequality was institutionalized in Britain.
Tabili tells in unprecedented detail the story of racial subordination and Black resistance in the first half of this century. Drawing on rich archival evidence, she traces the sources of racial conflict to the structure of the labor market in merchant shipping, a global industry that relied on cheap labor from the colonies. As she reconstructs the social meaning of race in the late empire, she describes how unions, workers, and British and colonial governments all struggled to define who was Black and what this meant in relation to the prerogatives of British identity.
Notorious episodes of racial confrontation, Tabili demonstrates, were shaped more by the decisions of influential institutional actors than by the racist impulses of ordinary people. In documenting the power of institutions to assign meaning to racial difference, "We Ask for British Justice" has important implications for ethnic relations in other postcolonial societies.
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Problems of Empire
We Shall Soon Be Having Rule Britannia Sung
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Alien Seamen Order April Arab seamen ashore Asiatic articles Black and white Black British Black seamen Black workers Board of Trade boardinghouse keepers Britain Britain London British nationality British seamen British Shipping Cardiff Chief Constable Colonial Office Coloured Alien Seamen coloured seamen contract labor crews cultural December Deht economic efforts Elder Dempster elites empire employers European firemen gender global Government of India Home Office Home Office Minute Immigration imperial India Office Indian seamen industry interracial interwar January Joseph Havelock Wilson June Kay Menzies Lascars Liverpool migration National Maritime Board Negro November October organization owea passports police political ports postwar Race Relations racial conflict racial difference racial divisions racial subordination racism repatriation Report resistance sailors seafaring Seamen's Union September settlements shipboard shipowners Somali South Shields standard articles Trade Unions twentieth century union leaders Union of Seamen wages wartime West African West Indian white seamen women workforce