Jamaican Volunteers and the Development of National Consciousness

TitleJamaican Volunteers and the Development of National Consciousness
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsSmith, Richard
Number of Pages192
PublisherManchester University Press

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, despite their exclusion from the battlefield, the author shows that 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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