Lecturer: Dr Adam Elliot-Cooper
15 Feb 2021
Standard discussions of police racism in Britain present it as being a consequence of Britain becoming multicultural, following the migration of African, Caribbean and Asian people to Britain in significant numbers after World War II. These migrants are seen as disrupting a peaceful, united, monocultural Britain.
But historically, most of Britain’s policing hasn’t taken place on British soil – it has been deployed in its colonies. Millions of colonial subjects, exploited and controlled for centuries for the enrichment of Britain, required policing.
British colonial policing was far more militarised and violent than policing on the British mainland. The racial hierarchy of the British Empire – the racism of colonialism – is what justified the violence and exploitation Britain imposed on the Africans, Asians and Caribbean people it colonised.
- Nijjar, J (2018) Echoes of Empire: Excavating the Colonial Roots of Britain's "War on Gangs", Social justice 45(2/3):147-161.
- Moore, J.M. (2016) Built for inequality in a diverse world: The historic origins of criminal justice, Papers from the British Criminology Conference.
- French, D (2012) Nasty not nice: British counterinsurgency doctrine and practice, 1945–1967, Small Wars & Insurgencies, 23:4-5, pp . 744-761.
Questions for Discussion
Below are two short film clips and questions for discussion
- Pathe British Colonial Films - Mau Mau Disorders In Kenya (1952)
- Pathe British Colonial Films - The Mark Of The Mau Mau - Exclusive (1953)
- What is the relationship between the police and the military during the ‘Kenya Emergency’?
- Which tactics appear to be similar to policing today?
- What role does the court system play in how the Emergency is portrayed to Kenyans, the British and the wider world?
- Which tactics appear to be more commonly associated with military operations?
General Discussion Questions
- Why was violence and control such an important part of colonial rule?
- Is the violence and control of colonialism something which is well-remembered in Britain? If not, why not?
- How has colonialism’s legacies shaped racism today?