Book Review: Indigenous Peoples of the British Dominions and the First World War


by Timothy C. Winegard

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. xviii, 312. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $99.00. ISBN: 110701493X

The role of Britain’s Indian and colonial troops during the Great War has been well covered in the literature, but no so that of the “indigenous peoples” of the self-governing dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and South Africa), making this a pioneering work. 

Prof. Winegard (Colorado Mesa University) devotes nearly a third of the book to background on the Dominion “natives,” their earlier military service, and settler attitudes, subjects largely overlooked in most histories.  He notes that although “native” auxiliaries often served in colonial conflicts, by 1914, the Dominions had largely excluded the original inhabitants, and people of “mixed race” or other non-European origins, from regular military service, usually on the specious grounds that most of them were not sufficiently “martial.”  Yet when war came in 1914, many of these people offered to serve.  Initially they were usually rejected, but by 1915, as the war, and the casualty lists, grew longer, “military pragmatism” prompted more attention to service by the first peoples.  Winegard covers the decision to recruit the indigenous peoples and their service in rather more than half the book, and even includes a look at how this service affected the “Home Front.”  He concludes with a short chapter on the postwar experience of these men, which was usually negative, as their service was virtually erased from the record until recently. 

A ground-breaking work on British and Dominion military policy in the First World War and the evolution of Dominion citizenship.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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