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'From Birmingham to Bulawayo': the Labour government, race and decolonisation, 1964-1970

O'Leary, KP; (2016) 'From Birmingham to Bulawayo': the Labour government, race and decolonisation, 1964-1970. Masters thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines how Harold Wilson’s Labour government of 1964-1970 addressed the issues of race and decolonisation both internationally and domestically. Internationally, the thesis is primarily concerned with the Wilson government’s policies and attitudes towards the former non-settler empire. The early 1960s saw most of Britain’s remaining non-white colonies gain their independence, the so-called ‘winds of change’. Despite this loss of empire, many senior Labour figures believed that Britain still had a key role to play with regards to its former colonial subjects. This was evident in the Wilson government’s commitment to the Commonwealth and the creation of the new Ministry of Overseas Development. Although grounded in apparently noble intentions, these policies were laden with racist assumptions of Britain as a paternal figure responsible to the supposedly backward races, particularly in Africa, a legacy of the ‘civilising mission’. Domestically, the thesis will explore the Wilson government’s approach to another legacy of empire: the issue of Commonwealth immigration. The post-war period saw thousands of non-white migrants arrive into Britain from the Commonwealth, predominantly from the West Indies, India and Pakistan. These migrants were permitted unrestricted entry into Britain through the British Nationality Act of 1948. However, the 1960s saw the introduction of legislation to curtail this migration. Although the Labour Party initially opposed the inaugural Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962, the Wilson government upheld the Act and later introduced tougher controls. The thesis will examine the links between the Wilson government’s approach to these two issues, drawing on the recent scholarly trend which has argued for the synthesis of Britain’s domestic and imperial histories. Above all, the thesis will argue that the Wilson government’s approach to race, both internationally and domestically, was shaped by a lingering imperial ideology that cast non-white peoples as ‘uncivilised’ and ‘backward’.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: 'From Birmingham to Bulawayo': the Labour government, race and decolonisation, 1964-1970
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1516058
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