Colonial Policing Comes Home
Lecturer: Dr Adam Elliot-Cooper
Feb. 15, 2021
Britain in the 1970s and 80s saw the rise of a new generation of black and Asian youth who, unlike the previous generation, had been born in Britain. They were not migrants like their parents, and demanded to part of Britain. At the same time, black and Asian youth were a useful scapegoat for a government unable to deal with economic crisis and rising unemployment. Creating the impression that ethnic minorities brought criminality and violence to Britain brought with it two things: 1) Forms of racist, violent policing which had previously been used in the colonies, and 2) Mass resistance and rebellion against this police racism, led by young people in urban areas.
- Stuart Hall et. al. (1978) Chapter 10: The Politics of ‘Mugging’, in Policing the crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Trafford, J (2020) Riot Redactions, Colonial Reverberations. New Socialist.
- Linstrum, E (2019) Domesticating Chemical Weapons: Tear Gas and the Militarization of Policing in the British Imperial World, 1919–1981. The Journal of Modern History. 91, 3.
- Jennifer Davis, From ‘Rookeries’ to ‘Communities’: Race, Poverty and Policing in London, 1850–1985, History Workshop Journal, Volume 27, Issue 1, SPRING 1989, Pages 66–85.
Questions for Discussion
Sentencing five West Indian youths to five years' jail or detention, in May 1975, Judge Gwynn Morris, [remarked]:
“Within memory these areas were peaceful, safe and agreeable to live in. But the immigrant resettlement which has occurred over the past 25 years has radically transformed that environment. Those concerned with the maintenance of law and order are confronted with immense difficulties. This case has highlighted and underlined the perils which confront honest, innocent (and hardworking, unaccompanied women who are in the street after nightfall. I notice that not a single West Indian woman was attacked” Hall et. al. (1978) , as above Chapter 10: The Politics of ‘Mugging’, in Policing the crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order, London: Palgrave Macmillan p333.
- What do the Judge’s remarks tell us about Britain’s image of itself?
- What do the judge’s remarks tell us about how Britain remembers itself before mass migration from the colonies after World War 2?
- How is the politics of racism, gender and class used by the judge?
- Do you think the judge’s remarks are accurate, or is the moral decline of Britain he conveys shaped by racism?