A Transnational History of Immigration Restriction: Natal and New South Wales, 1896-97

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This article investigates the creation of Natal's 1897 Immigration Restriction Act and traces the legislative connections between southern Africa and Australia. It describes Natal's anti-Indian agitation of 1896-97 and argues that the colony's government initially sought to solve the Asiatic question' by adopting a racial immigration bill passed in New South Wales in 1896. However, the threat Of violent extra-legal action by white settlers convinced the Natal government to replace this bill with one that made no direct reference to race. Natal ministers realised that racial legislation would face constitutional obstacles and were anxious to enact a restrictive immigration law without delay. The new Act was partly modelled on American immigration legislation and, though not explicit on race, its educational test was primarily designed to restrict Indian immigration. The Natal law was in turn used as the basis for Australian immigration legislation. Given these transnational connections, Natal's response to the 'Indian question' should be placed in a global context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-344
JournalThe Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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