Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Timothy Alborn

Committee Members

Simon Davis

Clifford Rosenberg

Brett Bebber

Subject Categories

European History | History | Intellectual History


Institute of Race Relations, Kenneth Little, Michael Banton, Sheila Patterson, John Rex


This dissertation studies the early generation of scholars who developed the academic field of race relations in Britain from the 1940s into the 1980s. The research and methodology performed throughout this period was both innovative and problematic due to the approaches taken. Early scholars, such as Kenneth L. Little, Michael Banton, Sheila Patterson, and John Rex, provided the dominant schools of thought in the study of race relations in Britain up to the early 1970s. This dissertation studies the origins and development of an interdisciplinary field of study within the context of a nation and society coming to grips with changing demographics.

The early development of the field of British race relations was dominated by white scholars who subordinated race to other factors. With the exception of Rex, these scholars approached British race relations by mapping their African methodology on British race relations, although the majority of Black British immigrants arrived from the West Indies and South Asia, not Africa. They approached their research as studies in intra-group relations, which diminished race as a primary factor. According to early social scientists, the problem was not that they were black, but that they were there; they located the problem within the black population’s inability to assimilate, as opposed to British society’s acceptance of them. Rex, who applied Marxist theory in an attempt to understand British race relations, subordinated race to class conflict. The field remained one sided where white Britons, in academia and the government, attempted to speak for and about a growing black population in Britain. It lacked black voices until the 1970s and 1980s through the work of Ambalavaner Sivanandan, Chris Mullard, Stuart Hall, and Paul Gilroy.