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Race and ethnicity: a study of the response of British colonists to Aborigines, Chinese and non-British Europeans in New South Wales, 1856-1881
thesisposted on 2022-03-29, 01:15 authored by Ann Curthoys
There were four principal aspirations or beliefs - ethnocentrism, racism, liberalism, and the desire to maintain the British character of the community - underlying the response of British to non-British people in the colony. Depending on differences between the three major non-British groups in physical appearance, conformity to British social norms, numbers, and economic role, different responses to each resulted. Disagreement over the proper response to a particular group occurred either because one or more of these aspirations or beliefs was not held, or because the character of the non-British group in question was variously judged. The responses to Aborigines after dispossession was complete were primarily of contempt and indifference. Aborigines were a poverty-stricken, socially outcast, and politically powerless minority, believed to be racially inferior and "doomed to extinction". From the 1870's greater efforts were made to isolate and materially assist them, and to impart to them some of the habits of the British way of life. Chinese were similarly regarded as racially inferior, but, because of their increasing numbers and economic competition with Europeans, were usually hated and feared. Twice, in 1861 and 1881, Acts were passed to limit their immigration. Between 1862 and 1877, when their numbers were decreasing and they were engaged in occupations where they did not compete with Europeans, relations were fairly harmonious, but in the preceding and following years, when the opposite conditions prevailed, they were opposed as an economic, social, political, moral, and racial threat to the colony. Non-British Europeans, because of their social conformity and low numbers, and because they were seen to be racially similar to the British themselves, were accepted. Some maintained a sense of a distinct identity, and there was some residential and occupational clusterings, especially in German farming communities, but on the whole they were assimilated into British colonial society.