Chapter 21: Abstract

Colonial Soldiers, Race, and Military Masculinities during and beyond World War I and II

Richard Smith (Goldsmiths, University of London, Department of Media and Communications)

In Oxford Handbook of Gender, War, and the Western World since 1600, ed. by Karen Hagemann et al. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 519-38.


Millions of colonial soldiers served the Empires during World War I and II. Their history and memory received little attention until fresh academic interest towards the end of the twentieth century. This chapter shows how martial race theory, notions of mental capacity and pre-world war experiences impacted on the deployment of colonial troops. These factors included fear of arming colonial subjects, anxieties about the apparent mental and physical incapacity of some white soldiers and pragmatic strategic considerations. The chapter takes a comparative approach to explore how the imperial military service of colonial soldiers contributed to masculine visions of independent nationhood and citizenship following the First and Second World Wars. Visions of heroic masculine sacrifice were appropriated by emerging nations, even where war service involved discrimination and deployment as military labor. The chapter also evaluates the extent to which imperial loyalty and the hope of post-war political patronage motivated colonial troops.


World War I and II; colonial wars; national identity; military service; colonial soldiers; martial races; race; gender; masculinities.

In Part III: "The Age of the World Wars" of the Oxford Handbook of Gender, War and the Western World since 1600.

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