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Archives of the Royal Commonwealth Society from Cambridge University Library

Part 1: The Colour Question in Imperial Policy, c.1830-1939

The focus here is on the Colour Question, especially relations with native races, issues of race and empire, initial cultural contacts and race and cultural interchange.  There is material from the native viewpoint, from colonists and from the prospective of policy makers.  The documents pose lots of questions for researchers:

  • What impact did the Colour Question have on imperial policy?
  • How did indigenous populations react to imperial policies?
  • How successfully, if at all, did colonial administrators react to the pressures for change?

Some of the items featured from the archives of the Royal Commonwealth Society include:

  • F D Lugard on The Colour Problem, April 1921.
  • Coloured Races in the Empire, a lecture delivered by Annie Besant, April 1913.
  • ‘Colour Prejudice in the British Colonies’, an article in the Indian Review, December 1913, by Ratanshaw Koyaji of the Nyasaland Protectorate.
  • The Governance of Empire, by P A Silburn, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Natal.
  • Robert Knox, The Races of Man: A Philosophical Enquiry into the Influence of Race over the Destinies of Nations, 1862.
  • Reports of the Select Committee on Aborigines, 1836-1837.
  • Papers of the First Universal Races Congress, held at the University of London, 26-29 July 1911.

In terms of imperial policy there is much evidence of misrule and misunderstanding. Here are the seeds of apartheid, the Mau Mau rebellion and other bitter conflicts of the twentieth century.

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