Jamaican Volunteers in the First World War: Race, Masculinity and the Development of National Consciousness

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Newly available in paperback, this study explores the dynamics of race and masculinity to provide fresh historical insight into the First World War and its Imperial dimensions, examining the experiences of Jamaicans who served in British regiments.

Reluctance to accept West Indian volunteers was rooted in the belief that black men lacked the qualities necessary for modern warfare. This, combined with fears over white racial degeneration, resulted in the need to preserve established hierarchies, which was achieved through the exclusion of black soldiers from the front line and their confinement in labour battalions.

However, the author shows that despite this exclusion, the experience of war was invaluable in allowing veterans to appropriate codes of heroism, sacrifice and citizenship in order to wage their own battles for independence on their return home, culminating in the nationalist upsurge of the late 1930s.

This book offers a lively and accessible account that will prove invaluable to those studying the Imperial dimensions of the First World War, as well and those interested in the wider notions of race and masculinity in the British Empire.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780719069864
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Smith teaches in the Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths College, University of London

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Table of Contents


1. Degeneration and male hysteria: the wartime crisis of white masculinity

2. 'The cannon's summoning roar': Jamaica and the outbreak of war

3. The recruitment of Jamaican volunteers

4. Jamaican soldiers in Europe and the Middle East

5. 'Their splendid physical proportions': the black soldier in the white imagination

6. Discrimination and mutiny

7. Military endeavour, nationalism and Pan-Africanism


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