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Different drummer, same parade: Britain's Palestine labour department, 1942-1948

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Power, Jane
This thesis examines a longstanding object of scholarly inquiry -- the degree and nature of Palestine's distinction from other settler colonies -- in light of two developing fields. Some historians now examine the social history of Palestine; others, twentieth-century British colonial theory and practice. The topic of labour administration in the British mandatory government -- the work of the Palestine Labour Department from 1942 to 1948 -- brings together the two perspectives. The thesis first surveys pressures on British colonial policy during the interwar period and the responses of the Colonial Office and colonial administrators. In particular, policies and programs reflected a growing importance accorded to colonial workers, both settlers and so-called "natives," as the approach of World War II revealed Britain's dependence on colonial stability to protect vital material and strategic resources. As it places the Palestine mandate in this context and analyzes the operation of the Palestine Labour Department, the thesis refers to the example of Northern Rhodesia, another colony with highly organized settler workers and a coalescing "native" workforce. Drawing mainly on British and mandate government archives, the thesis presents the department's aims, achievements, and deficiencies in light of support and hindrance from external political and economic forces and other parts of government. Examination of one protracted and ultimately uncompleted project, an attempt to set up a system of government-run labour exchanges, provides a detailed example of the strengths and vulnerabilities, strategies and tactics, of the agencies and interests that shaped labour administration in the mandate. The thesis argues that the Palestine Labour Department shared in the pressures from government and external forces that commonly affected contemporary colonial labour departments. At the same time, the distinctive characteristics of Palestine and its workforce required a labour department that differed in composition from its counterparts. That difference in experience and outlook made Palestine's labour agency a forerunner of the social service agencies of the succeeding phase of colonial administration.
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