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

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. ISSN 0023-6942


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.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: © 2013 Australian Society for the Study of Labour History. Anyone wishing to read this article should email the author at Permanent restricted access to published version on this website due to publisher copyright policy.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Commerce
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2014 02:34
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2016 02:15
Uncontrolled Keywords: White Australia; racism; Chinese immigration; class politics; historiography
Fields of Research : 16 Studies in Human Society > 1606 Political Science > 160601 Australian Government and Politics
21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australia's Past
Identification Number or DOI: 10.5263/labourhistory.105.0131

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