Crawford House Publishing
Colonial Genocide 

Studies of genocide rarely move beyond the Holocaust (1939-1945) and the Armenian genocide (1915-1917), and few make comparative analyses of different cases. This study seeks to develop understanding of which economic, political and social conditions give rise to a specific type of genocide - colonial genocide. An in-depth study is made of the genocide of Aborigines in Queensland, Australia (1840-1897), and this is systematically compared to a briefer study of the genocide of the Hereros in South-West Africa (1884-1906).

Of the factors compared, four are verified by both cases, albeit with certain modifications. A common argument is made that genocide is pre-empted where the victim group is needed as labour for the perpetrator society. Neither case supported this factor: rather, it was found that the genocide continued despite this need. While these factors provided necessary conditions for genocide, they were not sufficient to explain why genocide had been pursued rather than policies of assimilation or expulsion. Key dominant discourses and popular perceptions in Britain and Germany were examined to explain their different roles in the genocides. Their particular forms were found to be significant, as were changing international relations within Europe.

The problem of defining genocide is addressed. The study demonstrates that it is possible to assess the intentions of genocidal perpetrators. It draws distinctions between overt and covert perpetrator intention; between genocides in which the state is an active perpetrator and those where it has a complicit, less obvious role; and between a piecemeal form of genocide occurring over a long period, and a systematic genocide over a shorter time.

The conclusions from these case studies are briefly contrasted to explanations arising from the main European cases of genocide. By underlining the differences and similarities, the study demonstrates that a category of ‘colonial genocide’ is not useful, and argues that a much stronger case can be made for the distinction between state and societal genocides.


Alison Palmer


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9 black-and-white photographsand illustrations


Portrait; softcover; x + 248 pages


215 x 135 mm



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