Labour History Review

'The Coolies Will Elbow us out of the Country': African Reactions to Indian Immigration in the Colony of Natal, South Africa

Labour History Review (2007), 72, (2), 155–168.

Abstract

There is an extensive literature on the experiences of Indians and Africans in colonial Natal, but almost none of it focuses on the relationships between them. This article explores one element of this relationship, namely the ways in which Africans reacted to Indian indentured workers. It looks briefly at the conditions of indenture, and dwells at greater length on Indians' experiences as small agricultural producers after their contracts of indenture had ended. The attitudes of African traditionalists and the new middle class are examined. The article ends by examining the relationship between the leading political leaders of Indians and Africans in early twentieth-century Natal, M.K. Gandhi and John Dube. It suggests that while the settler state had an interest in driving a wedge between Africans and Indians, such sentiments for separation were felt from below as well.

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Author details

Hughes, Heather