During the First World War both Britain and France recruited an enormous number of ‘colonial’ or ‘native’ workers, soldiers and sailors from their respective Empires and moved them into the European theatre of operations. France, which had a long tradition of imperial native regiments, and which was most desperate to find replacement manpower for the millions of Frenchmen called to the front, had the least hesitation in calling on the ‘patriotism’ of its subject peoples. In all, France mobilized some 300 000 colonial workers and 600 000 soldiers from Senegal, Indo-China, Madagascar, China, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Likewise, the British deployed 138 000 Indian troops, as well as workers from the West Indies, West Africa, South Africa and China. If this number is added to the 200 000 black labourers and soldiers brought in by the US Army, then the total of black and Asian men in Europe was in the region of one and a half million. Europeans were confronted directly, within the boundaries of their own societies, with an unprecedented number of ‘racially distinct’ people and it is this contact which provides a rich source of historical evidence about early ‘race-relations’. Nor was contact restricted to the War of 1914–18 since, although France, Britain and the USA repatriated the majority of colonials and black GIs after the Armistice, many tens of thousands stayed on and created the first large ethnic minority settlements, both in ports from Cardiff to Marseilles, as well as in French industrial towns from Lyons and Paris to Lille and Metz. This process of post-war settlement led to the first manifestations of large-scale, popular racism. For example, the demobilization of British soldiers and sailors coincided with a wave of race riots in British ports in 1919, while the French occupation of the Rhine with black colonial troops during 1919–24 stirred up an extremely vicious racist campaign in Germany.
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