Racial hierarchy

Ideas about race and racial hierarchy developed in the British Empire. As ideas about the world were explored, the concept of races being superior, or inferior, was explored. It built on ideas and practises already in place: the caste system, for example. A concept of racial features, inadequacies and limitations emerged from thinking and theorising the nature of mankind. Some studies aimed to explain evolution, with a consequence of suggesting some races were more evolved than others. Theories of racial hierarchy can be seen as an attempt to justify the subjugation and enslavement of peoples, of a means to clear a collective conscience when repressing, or exterminating a culture. Now, such theories are associated most frequently with the Nazi’s in Germany, Apartheid in South Africa or the Jim Crow Laws of the United States. They were however very much a feature of British rule over the Empire.

This lecture by Professor Sir Richard Evans FBA (1 hour duration) on the Victorian: Empire and Race, is excellent.

Links: Theories about Racial Hierarchies in the British Empire

Stock, Paul. Almost a separate race”: racial thought and the idea of Europe in British encyclopaedias and histories, 1771-1830. London School of Economics.

McAuliffe, Erin L. Caste and the quest for racial hierarchy in British Burma: An analysis of census classifications from 1872-1931. University of Washington, 2017.

Harvey, Sean P. Ideas of Race in Early America. Oxford Research Encyclopedias.

Horsman, Reginald. Origins of Racial Anglo-Saxonism in Great Britain before 1850. Journal of the History of Ideas, 1976.

Malik, Kenan. Why the Victorians were colour blind. In the 19th century, race mattered far less than social distinction: a West African tribal chief was unquestionably superior to an East End costermonger. Literature Review in The New Statesman

Wohl, Anthony S. Victorian Racism. Victoria Web.

The British EmpireMaking of the United KingdomEconomic Consequences of the British EmpireHow did the Empire affect Great Britain?Society changes: Political Thought and the British EmpireQuestions about the British EmpireBritish Empire Teaching Resources

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