'Martial Race' Theory: Nature and origins Open Access

Hupp, Billy (2015)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/t722h9449?locale=en


In nineteenth-century Europe, new ideas on race emerged which were highly influential in scientific, philosophical, and socio-political thought. Specifically, racial categories emerged and were elaborated which distinguished Africans, Americans, Asians, and Europeans as fundamentally different. Under the British in India, this new trend was adapted to become martial race theory, which held that only certain races of Indians would be effective as soldiers in the Indian Army. This thesis considers the primary documents exemplifying martial race theory, including letters and memos from high-ranking government and military officials; texts on the history of the British Indian Army; and handbooks on particular racial, religious, and caste groups. Previous analysis of the evidence describes what martial race theory was and how it affected the makeup of the army. This thesis reinterprets these texts in order to demonstrate that all of these colonial British authors took the theory of martial races in India as a fundamental premise, upon which they based subsequent arguments about the inherent characteristics of a certain group of Indians. The final section then demonstrates that the same ideas which supported martial race theory were developed earlier in Europe. These European ideas allowed the theory in India to establish its decades-long primacy, unchallenged by British thinkers from the late nineteenth century almost until Independence in 1947.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

From rebellion to nationalism 10

In search of "the very best men" 16

On the origin of racial theories 25

Between east and west 35

Conclusion 39

Bibliography 41

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