Interraciality in Early Twentieth Century Britain: Challenging Traditional Conceptualisations through Accounts of ‘Ordinariness’

Interraciality in Early Twentieth Century Britain: Challenging Traditional Conceptualisations through Accounts of ‘Ordinariness’

geneology
Volume 3, Number 2
24 pages
DOI: 10.3390/genealogy3020021

Chamion Caballero, Visiting Senior Fellow
London School of Economics


Unknown Anglo-Chinese family, Liverpool, c.1930s. Image courtesy of Yvonne Foley. Foley has campaigned for greater recognition of the brutal repatriation of Chinese seaman by the British government in 1945–1946, many of whom were consequently forced to leave their white wives and children behind. See http://www.halfandhalf.org.uk/.

The popular conception of interraciality in Britain is one that frequently casts mixed racial relationships, people and families as being a modern phenomenon. Yet, as scholars are increasingly discussing, interraciality in Britain has much deeper and diverse roots, with racial mixing and mixedness now a substantively documented presence at least as far back as the Tudor era. While much of this history has been told through the perspectives of outsiders and frequently in the negative terms of the assumed ‘orthodoxy of the interracial experience’—marginality, conflict, rejection and confusion—first-hand accounts challenging these perceptions allow a contrasting picture to emerge. This article contributes to the foregrounding of this more complex history through focusing on accounts of interracial ‘ordinariness’—both presence and experiences—throughout the early decades of the twentieth century, a time when official concern about racial mixing featured prominently in public debate. In doing so, a more multidimensional picture of interracial family life than has frequently been assumed is depicted, one which challenges mainstream attitudes about conceptualisations of racial mixing both then and now.

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