The Invention of the White Race

…is the title of two volumes by Theodore W. Allen, published by Verso. Volume One (1994) is sub-titled ‘Racial Oppression and Social Control’; Volume Two (1997) ‘The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America’. What Poumista would probably describe as a “neat-o” summary of his argument is available here.

I picked them up for a song from Barricade.

Ted’s work brings to mind two other works of a similar nature. The first is How the Irish Became White (Routledge, 1995/2008) by the race traitor Noel Ignatiev —

The Irish came to America in the eighteenth century, fleeing a homeland under foreign occupation and a caste system that regarded them as the lowest form of humanity. In the new country – a land of opportunity – they found a very different form of social hierarchy, one that was based on the color of a person’s skin. Noel Ignatiev’s 1995 book – the first published work of one of America’s leading and most controversial historians – tells the story of how the oppressed became the oppressors; how the new Irish immigrants achieved acceptance among an initially hostile population only by proving that they could be more brutal in their oppression of African Americans than the nativists. This is the story of How the Irish Became White.

— and J. Sakai’s Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat (Morningstar, 1989 (1983?) [PDF]. A critical review — ‘J. Sakai’s Settlers and Anti-Racist Working-Class Politics’ by Sebastian Lamb (of the Canadian group New Socialist) — is available here. On a spotterly note, Seb writes: “The roots of the problem [with Sakai’s argument] are in the book’s crude theoretical framework, one of many versions of the Maoist “Marxism-Leninism” that flourished in the “New Communist Movement” (NCM) of the 1960s and 1970s (see… Max Elbaum’s book Revolution in the Air…)” (Verso, 2002) and especially Loren Goldner’s review of same.

I is gonna upload a quote or two from Volume One of Ted’s inventive history in the near future…

See also : Sojourner Truth Organization Digital Archive | Whites not all right! Anti-White Conference bad! Exclamation marks good!!! (December 5, 2008) | White Privilege // Whiteness Studies (October 7, 2008) | Anarchism and Aboriginal sovereignty (July 16, 2008) | Anarchy 102 : Race (April 10, 2007).

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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24 Responses to The Invention of the White Race

  1. THR says:

    The book sounds interesting. Verso have been putting out some good stuff in recent years.

    I’ve been having a similar debate with some ‘traditional conservatives’ recently, who can’t seem to come to grips with the notion that ‘race’ is a concept that was initially used to prop up every kind of bigotry and imperialist venture. The point about the Irish is particularly relevant. One of them tried to point out how successfully ‘Anglo-Celtic’ people had integrated into Australia, or some such, when I tried to point out that the conjunction of Anglo and Celtic actually papers over the kicking the Irish received from the Brits until fairly recently.

  2. @ndy says:

    Verso done published heaps of neat stuff.

    Re the silly billy conservative revolutionary traditionalists — cf. Carl Schmitt — their grasp of history is as firm as their grip on theory. Re the dirty Fenian bastards — Allen’s work is based precisely on a comparison of the English conquest of Ireland with that of the New World…

    The Irish

    21. From early in the thirteenth century, until their power entered a two-and-a-half-century eclipse in 1315,21 the Anglo-Norman English dealt with the contradictions between English law and Irish tribal Brehon law by refusing to recognize Celtic law, and at the same time denying the Irish admittance to the writs and rights of English law.22

    22. In 1277, high Irish churchmen, having secured support among powerful tribal chieftains, submitted a petition to English King Edward I, offering to pay him 8,000 marks in gold over a five-year period for the general enfranchisement of free Irishmen under English law. The king was not himself unwilling to make this grant of English law. But he thought he ought to get more money for it, and so the Irish three years later raised the offer to 10,000 marks.23

    23. What was being asked was not the revolutionary reconstitution of society, but merely the abandonment of “racial” distinction among freemen ruled by English law in Ireland. In the end the king left the decision to the Anglo-Norman magnates of Ireland, and they declined to give their assent. Referring to a replay of this issue which occurred some fifty years later, Sir John Davies concluded that, “The great [English] lordes of Ireland had informed the king that the Irishry might not be naturalized, without damage and prejudice either to themselves, or to the Crowne.”24

    24. Irish resentment and anger found full voice in the wake of the Scots invasion made in 1315 at the invitation of some Irish tribes. In 1317, Irish chieftains, led by Donal O’Neill, king of Tyrone, joined in a Remonstrance to John XXII, Pope to both English and Irish. In that manifesto the Irish charged that the kings of England and the Anglo-Norman “middle nation” had practiced genocide against the Irish, “enacting for the extermination of our race most pernicious laws.”25 It presented a four-count indictment: 1) Any Englishman could bring an Irishman into court on complaint or charge, but “every Irishman, except prelates, is refused all recourse to the law by the very fact [of being Irish ]”; 2) “When…some Englishman kills an Irishman…no punishment or correction is inflicted;” 3) Irish widows of English men were denied their proper portion of inheritance; and, 4) Irish men were denied the right to bequeath property.

    25. Whatever exactly the remonstrants meant by their word “race,” their grievances, like those of the African-Americans and the American Indians we have cited, bore the hallmark of racial oppression. From the Petition of 1277 to the Remonstrance of 1317, it was specifically the legal status of the free Irish men, rather than the unfree, which was at issue.

    “The really peculiar feature about the situation in Ireland is that the free Irishman who had not been admitted to English law was, as far as the royal courts were concerned, in much the same position as the betagh [the Irish laborer bound to the land].”26

    Compelling parallels

    26. Given the common constitutional principles of the three cases–the Irish, the American Indian, and the African-American–the abundant parallels they present are more than suggestive; they constitute a compelling argument for the sociogenic theory of racial oppression.27

    27. If, from the beginning of the eighteenth century in Anglo-America, the term “negro” meant slave, except when explicitly modified by the word “free,”28 so, under English (Anglo-Norman) thirteenth-century law, the term “hibernicus,” Latin for “Irishman,” was the legal term for “unfree.”29 If under Anglo-American slavery, “the rape of a female slave was not a crime, but a mere trespass on the master’s property,”30 so, in 1278, two Anglo-Normans, brought into court and charged with raping Margaret O’Rorke were found not guilty because “the said Margaret is an Irishwoman.”31 If a law enacted in Virginia in 1723, provided that, “manslaughter of a slave is not punishable,”32 so under Anglo-Norman law it sufficed for acquittal to show that the victim in a slaying was Irish.33 Anglo-Norman priests granted absolution on the grounds that it was “no more sin to kill an Irishman than a dog or any other brute.”34 If African-Americans were obliged to guard closely any document they might have attesting their freedom, so, in Ireland at the beginning of the fourteenth century, letters patent, attesting to a person’s Englishness, were cherished by those who might fall under suspicion of trying to “pass.”35 If the Georgia Supreme Court, ruled in 1851 that “the killing of a negro” was not a felony, but upheld an award of damages to the owner of an African-American bond-laborer murdered by another “white” man,36 so, in 1310 an English court in Ireland freed Robert Walsh, an Anglo-Norman charged with killing John Mac Gilmore, because the victim was “a mere Irishman and not of free blood,” it being stipulated that “when the master of the said John shall ask damages for the slaying, he [Walsh] will be ready to answer him as the law may require.”37 If in 1884 the United States Supreme Court, citing much precedent authority, including the Dred Scott decision, declared that Indians were legally like immigrants, and therefore not citizens except by process of individual naturalization38; so, for four centuries, until 1613, the Irish were regarded by English law as foreigners in their own land.39 If the testimony of even free African-Americans was disallowed as uncreditable;40 so, in Anglo-Norman Ireland, native Irish of the free classes were deprived of legal defense against English abuse because they were not “admitted to English law,” and hence had no rights which an Englishman was bound to respect.

  3. Irish Paddy says:

    This stuff about the Irish is complete crap…the Irish slaves (oh sorry, “indentured servants”) in America were treated WORSE than the black slaves. A black slave was worth 3 or 4 times as much as an Irish one, because the blacks were stronger and worked harder! Not only were there white slaves in America, there were also free blacks, and even black slave owners! It wasn’t anywhere near as neat and ‘racial hierarchical’ as you make it out to be!

  4. Jamie R says:

    History has become so biased by things that didn’t even exist back then. Race factored into Irish people in the 18th century? Um no. Neither did it anyone else. Race and genetics and DNA are a modern invention.

    Before Darwin:

    1 a: a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations together with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangers b: a political division of the Roman people originally representing one of the three original tribes of ancient Rome 2: group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest.

    Tribe is cultural.

    1: a breeding stock of animals 2: a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock

    BREEDING STOCK. Bring the scientists in! Cause no one else recognises that or cares about that before the 19th century of Europe. Yeah we get enlightened, To what? To our future destruction.

  5. Macca says:

    I suppose you think the Aboriginal race is just a social construct, too, eh? Invented by lower class white trash to bolster their own fragile position in the social pecking order?

    Just try telling any blackfella that his race is an invention, he’ll punch you in the bloody face mate.

    And rightly so!

  6. @ndy says:


    I don’t think you’ve understood the argument.

  7. Macca says:

    Nah mate, I think I’ve understood the argument.

    You’re saying that race doesn’t exist, and it’s just a social construct.

    That’s a bunch of shit.

    You cunts take the blackfellas’ land and culture, now you want to take our race as well.

  8. @ndy says:


    Correction: you obviously don’t understand the argument; the meanings of the terms ‘race’ or ‘social construction’; history; ontology; or — I suspect — much of anything else.

    PS. Swearing is neither big nor clever.

  9. Ferox says:

    Macca: Biologically there is no differentiation between whites and blacks, asians or semites etc. The concept of race is based purely on the pigmentation of the skin which over years of evolution changed depending on the geographical climatic conditions a human evolved under. Take a biology course, read a book and expand your mind.

  10. Odd Nerdrum says:

    “Swearing is neither big nor clever.”


    Andy, the bourgeois ‘anarchist’.
    Watch out Macca, you’ll offend the little white boy nerd’s bourgeois sensibilties.

  11. Macca says:

    Bullshit. We have a unique DNA going back 40,000 years. It’s not about skin colour. You think anyone can be a blackfella? Like fucking hell

    We already have problems with white people claiming to be Kooris. You cunts go on about land rights, then when it comes down to it, you sell us out and claim that anyone can be a blackfella, it’s just about skin colour


    You have a big flapping bloody mouth and it needs to be SHUT

  12. Lumpen says:

    Macca: If race is biological, are there genes that are uniquely Aboriginal and are these the same thing as race?

    Australian Aborigines are genetically unique and in fact there are (from what I understand – not a scientist) 5 distinct genetic groupings, sharing common ancestry (and genes) with some Papuans, interestingly enough. The unique DNA found in Aborigines seem to go back between 45,000 and 70,000 years to (likely) a common, African ancestor and predating uniquely European gene sets by quite some time. There’s also a chance of multiple ancestors for Aborigines (such as later migration from other genetic groups).

    My point is that if it is genes that describe “race,” then what is called “Aboriginal” in Australia describes at least five different races and on this level one word wouldn’t be enough to describe what is going on. Being part of the same genetic group doesn’t mean you’ll share the same culture. Even in the same culture there are clans. So even if you said there were five Aboriginal races in Australia, it still wouldn’t be enough. Why reduce it at all? Who benefits from this? Note that this is not the same thing as saying “you don’t exist”.

    It’s a fair amount of bullshit on your part to claim that a single “Aboriginal race” exists outside the process of colonisation and then claim, it seems, that stating otherwise amounts to denying that there was an indigenous population before European invasion, genetically distinct or otherwise. It’s not like people sat around in one big group waiting for Europeans to come and tell them who they are. The idea of a single Aboriginal race (Australoid or otherwise) was invented in order to deal with (i.e. contain, kill and displace) a wide variety of people as a single group. “Aboriginal” is still useful to describe the indigenous population in order to positively discriminate (for example, in the above study), for a sense of identity for those displaced through colonisation and to organise, as in ‘Aboriginal Advancement League.’ It’s pretty fucking obvious that without colonisation an Aboriginal Advancement League would have been a completely alien idea. No-one is denying that there is such a thing as the Wadeye, Wurundjeri etc. If you can’t see that is what is being argued, I’d say you don’t understand what has been said, or you’re shit-stirring for the sake of it.

    As for whites claiming to be Koori/Aboriginal, I’d be interested to know what the problems with this are exactly, if you have the time. How widespread is it? Do they claim to be from a specific group and can speak for them or just Aborigines in general? Anyone to watch out for in particular? I’d also like to hear what you think the solution is and who gets to say who is Aboriginal and who is not, and how claims could be tested. Ta.

    PS. Not enough swearing in my post to prove how prole I am, so: fuck, shit, arse, dick, cunt and piss.

  13. Tony Whit[e]more says:

    Ferox, you need to rethink and restructure your comment, because it contains an obvious contradiction. You state “Biologically there is no differentiation between whites and blacks, asians or semites etc.”, then proceed to state “The concept of race is based purely on the pigmentation of the skin which over years of [evolution] changed depending on the geographical climatic conditions a human evolved under”. If you want to include the word ‘evolution’, you’re effectively stating change in the genetic material of a population of organisms from one generation to the next. For such morphism to occur would include deviation biologically. This is noticeable to the naked eye: Asian couple will produce offspring with ‘Asiatic’ characteristics, etc.

  14. @ndy says:

    Odd Nerdrum:

    “Swearing is neither big nor clever.”


    Andy, the bourgeois ‘anarchist’.

    Watch out Macca, you’ll offend the little white boy nerd’s bourgeois sensibilties.

    Odd Nerdrum / English N-A sympathiser / Macca / Punk / Snowy, aka ‘Scott No-mates’:

    Choose a handle and stick to it.

  15. dj says:

    fail troll is fail

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  17. Jasmine says:

    How is race a modern invention?

  18. @ndy says:

    What’s a race?

  19. Piltdown says:

    I’m Race Mathews and proud.

  20. inglourious_basterd says:

    I’m the third at Randwick and so’s my wife.

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