Kama MacleanApr 2, 2021
British India, White Australia
Overseas Indians, Intercolonial Relations and the Empire, 1901-1947
Commonwealth, curry and cricket: now that explains India and Australia! Not really, and not according to today's guest. Kama Maclean discusses her book British India, White Australia: Overseas Indians, Intercolonial Relations and the Empire, 1901-1947 (NewSouth, 2020).
In contemporary bilateral relations, great emphasis has been placed on India and Australia’s historical connection with the Commonwealth. The stress laid on a shared past is deeply misleading, however, for each colony was tied to Britain in the early twentieth century under very different conditions. Both, it is true, strained against the imperial embrace, but the respective forms of colonisation, collaboration with, and resistance against the empire diverge widely. At the beginning of the twentieth century, each colony pulled in a different direction. As a settler society geographically isolated from Britain, newly self-governing and freshly assertive, in 1901 Australia adopted the White Australia policy, effectively preventing the further migration of nonwhite settlers. This, much to Britain’s frustration, included those from British India, undermining an attempt to project a sense of unity within the empire. Prior to 1901, however, a substantial population of Indians had come to Australia and were granted limited rights of residency. British India, White Australia charts the lives of some of these settlers, charting a social history of their struggles against Australian legislation, which prevented them from voting and working in many industries.
Kama Maclean is Professor of South Asian History and department head at the University of Heidelberg's South Asia Institutes. Kama is a historian of South Asia, specialising in the experience of colonialism in north India, with an interest in political communication in colonial India. She was trained in the School of Politics at La Trobe University in the 1990s and completed a PhD on the history and politics of the Kumbh Mela in 2003.
Bede Haines is a solicitor, specialising in litigation and a partner at Holding Redlich, an Australian commercial law firm. He lives in Sydney, Australia. Known to read books, ride bikes and eat cereal (often). firstname.lastname@example.org