Race, Empire and British Wartime National Identity, 1939–45

TitleRace, Empire and British Wartime National Identity, 1939–45
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
JournalHistorical Research
Date Published05/2001

Britain's self-portrait as a democratic and paternalistic imperial nation was persistently undermined by the contradictory repercussions of racial divisiveness. The consequences of racism in both the metropole and in the colonies threatened the metropole-colonial relations so fundamental to British imperial sensibilities. Thus, government officials were involved throughout the war in repairing Britain's reputation with its imperial subjects. Using evidence from Colonial Office and Ministry of Information files, this article contributes to historical understanding of the empire's place in British national identity in the World War II years. It suggests the extent to which racism at “home” and in the colonies destabilized British efforts to bolster imperial loyalties that would persist into the post-war future.

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