Introduction: Marking Race in Twentieth Century British History

Marc Matera, Radhika Natarajan, Kennetta Hammond Perry, Camilla Schofield, Rob Waters*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How might historians narrate Britain's past if we centre imperial racial formation and its contestations? The thirtieth anniversary of Paul Gilroy's There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation provided an opportunity for a new generation of scholars to consider the frameworks of race in British history. In 1987, Gilroy challenged Marxist approaches that treated race as secondary to or even a mechanistic expression of class inequality. He showed that the failure to account for race and empire positioned racialized subjects as perpetual outsiders. Taking up Gilroy's analysis as a point of departure, this thematic issue brings together analyses of the state, institutions, and individuals to propose new periodizations, geographies, and methodologies for understanding twentieth-century British history. In this introduction, Marc Matera, Radhika Natarajan, Kennetta Hammond Perry, Camilla Schofield, and Rob Waters describe the five-year conversation that led to this thematic issue, introduce their respective essays, and explain why race must be understood not as a descriptive category but as an analytical framework for understanding Britain's past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-414
Number of pages8
JournalTwentieth Century British History
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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