The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
'Invisible' history of mixed race Britain becomes the subject of a major study
A major new study, jointly undertaken by Peter Aspinall, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Kent, and Chamion Caballero, Senior Research Fellow at London South Bank University, will investigate who was considered to be mixed race in Britain between 1920 and 1950, and how this population was perceived and treated by officialdom, the media and wider society.
Titled The Era of Moral Condemnation: mixed race people in Britain 1920 - 1950, the study will use first-hand accounts, autobiographical recordings and a range of archival material to understand how these perceptions emerged and the impact they may have had on the conceptualisation of mixed race people in Britain today.
The project has already sourced some notable documents, including: material at the National Archives on the social situation in British ports, the repatriation of Liverpool Chinese seamen in 1946, and the circumstances of the offspring of black American GIs and English women; material relating to the eugenics movement held at the Wellcome Library in London and the Eugenics Archive, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York; and previously neglected material held in a number of film archives.
Peter Aspinall said: 'From the mid-1920s to the 1940s, the pathologisation of race mixing and stigmatisation of mixed race people in Britain was at its peak, a process to which many major institutions and significant public figures contributed.
'We hope that this project will result in the largely invisible history of mixed race Britain between 1920s and 1950s being given a more prominent position in the contemporary study of race relations. The recovery of the history of different ethnic communities has now also assumed an increasing importance for culturally-focused school activities and the way in which identities and citizenship are constructed and some of the outputs of the research study will focus on these needs.'
The 'mixed' population is now the fastest growing ethnic group in Britain. While the substantial increase in the size of this group is a recent phenomenon, population mixing has happened throughout the 20th century and earlier. By the 1920s there were settled mixed race populations in a number of British seaports, including Liverpool and Cardiff, brought about in part by visiting African and Asian seamen, and significant communities in other cities including London and Manchester.
The project is funded by the British Academy.
Story published at 11:00am 15 May 2008