'You Rhodesians are more British than the British': the development of a white national identity and immigration policies and restrictions in Southern Rhodesia 1890-1965

Kerriann Larsen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] The central objective of this thesis is to trace the trajectory of Southern Rhodesia's immigration policies and restrictions between 1890 and 1965, to explore what they reveal about the government's nation-building project and analyse how this project stimulated the development of an imagined white Southern Rhodesian national identity. Between British conquest in 1890 and the announcement of a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1965, the colony of Southern Rhodesia was developed as a 'white man's country.' During this period the minority white population never exceeded 250 000, yet by UDI this relatively small community had developed a unique, imagined and overarching white national identity. The Southern Rhodesian government was heavily involved in this process and employed immigrant selection processes to ensure that those entering the colony would 'fit' into the existing white community and cultivate rather than challenge the social structure. The colony's immigration laws, migration schemes and practices of inclusion and exclusion therefore provide the historian with a useful lens through which the myth of imperial nation-building and the changing structures of a distinctive, racialised national identity can be examined. Due to the strict selection of men for the Cecil Rhodes's Pioneer Column and the introduction of early restrictive immigration policies, a nascent white national identity first began to emerge in the first three decades of British South African Company (BSAC) rule following the initial conquest of Southern Rhodesia in 1890 until the attainment of Responsible Government in 1923. This emerging national identity had to be imagined and engineered because in reality the white population was disparate and divided; but regardless of the actual inequalities and social rifts that prevailed, the white community and the BSAC government were united behind the common goal of maintaining white supremacy. During the interwar years the new Southern Rhodesian settler government attempted to encourage an increasing number of British migrants to the developing colony but still wanted to ensure that all migrants would assimilate into the white community and thus maintained a restrictive immigration policy. Even so, by the outbreak of World War II, the white settler population was still much smaller than the African majority, and in the post-WWII period it became clear that more British men and women were needed if white supremacy was to be maintained in the face of growing African nationalist opposition and rapid decolonisation...
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


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