Calling Up the Empire: The British Military Use of Non-White Labor in France, 1916-1920

TitleCalling Up the Empire: The British Military Use of Non-White Labor in France, 1916-1920
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication1990
AuthorsKilson, Robin
Academic DepartmentHistory Department
DegreePhD
Date Published1990/10/04
UniversityHarvard University
CityCambridge, MA
Abstract

This dissertation examines how Britain sought to use a key resource of empire--namely, labor supply--in the First World War, the contradictions of racism and ideology this entailed, and the impulses towards transformation of her rule abroad that were generated. Britain's labor requirements in support of the trench warfare in France between 1914 and 1918 were enormous, and satisfied largely by the importation of some 230,000 non-white contract laborers from her colonies and dependencies, and from China, as well as by extensive exploitation of German POW labor. The author approaches the question from four distinct perspectives: (1) the development of official policy concerning the use of imported labor in France; (2) the experience of the workers there; (3) the economic and political impact of their importation on their home countries during and after the war; and (4) the overall implications of the wartime labor expedient on general imperial policy.

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