This is a British colony: the ruling-class politics of the seafarers' strike, 1878-79

Article


Griffiths, Phil. 2013. "This is a British colony: the ruling-class politics of the seafarers' strike, 1878-79." Labour History: a journal of labour and social history. 105 (1), pp. 131-151. https://doi.org/10.5263/labourhistory.105.0131
Article Title

This is a British colony: the ruling-class politics of the seafarers' strike, 1878-79

ERA Journal ID34266
Article CategoryArticle
Authors
AuthorGriffiths, Phil
Journal TitleLabour History: a journal of labour and social history
Journal Citation105 (1), pp. 131-151
Number of Pages21
Year2013
PublisherLiverpool University Press
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
ISSN0023-6942
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.5263/labourhistory.105.0131
Web Address (URL)https://www.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/doi/10.3828/labourhistory.105.0131
Abstract

The seafarers' strike of 1878–79 has occupied a special place in the history of White Australia, symbolising the idea that militant working class action led to the racial exclusion of Chinese and other non-white people. This article demonstrates that the strike was, remarkably, supported by a significant proportion of the colonial ruling class, including the conservative politicians and newspapers of Queensland, primarily because they were concerned at the impact of Chinese immigration on British colonisation, especially in the north. Historians have wrongly seen the opposition of the Sydney Morning Herald to the strike as reflecting support for Chinese immigration and 'cheap labour'. The article suggests that, far from initiating the campaign for racial exclusion, the union movement embraced the anti-Chinese politics of a major section of the ruling class. It concludes by discussing the ways in which our histories have masked the role of the ruling class in anti-Chinese politics.

KeywordsWhite Australia; racism; Chinese immigration; class politics; historiography
Contains Sensitive ContentDoes not contain sensitive content
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020440801. Australian government and politics
430302. Australian history
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Byline AffiliationsSchool of Accounting, Economics and Finance
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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