'Without intending any of the most undesirable features of a colour bar': race science, Europeanness and the British armed forces during the twentieth century
[in special issue: Racializing the Soldier]
Patterns of Prejudice, 46, (3-4), . (doi:10.1080/0031322X.2012.701807).
- Author's Original
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In 1923 Air Ministry regulations explicitly excluded recruits who were not of 'pure European descent' from joining the Royal Air Force. Similar restrictions were placed in the British Army and Royal Navy in the interwar period. Such rejection was present but occurred less systematically during the First World War. This article analyses the intellectual foundations of this discriminatory policy and the problems of definition it created before September 1939. It then explores how and why policy was changed during the Second World War, asking whether greater inclusivity was based on expediency or a change in attitudes due to the fight against Nazism. In particular, the role of race science is highlighted, explaining the persistence in exclusion of those deemed non-European well beyond 1945. Finally it argues that the implementation of a wide-ranging colour bar has still to be acknowledged or subject to sustained memory work within the armed services and British society as a whole.
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