Colonial population sizes

As I’ve said before, one of the defining features of the British colonies in South East Asia was their small population size compared to the local population. For example in 1911 the European population of KL was under a 1000 while the combined Malay and Chinese population was in excess of 50,000 – and that was the colonial capital where you would expect a concentration of the colonial population.

So how small was small?

Well, as with so many things Wikipedia is your friend if a trifle imperfectly.

  • Asia
    • Myanmar 0.1% – may have been higher in 1948
    • Malaysia 0.2% – may have been higher in 1956
    • Singapore 1.3%
  • Africa
    • Kenya 0.7% – at independence in 1963
    • Rhodesia 5.4% during UDI
    • South Africa 9% – current estimate

The trend is quite clear – the former British colonies in Asia have (and probably had) tiny whilte populations while those in Southern Africa were larger.

The interesting one is of course Kenya. Given its history one might have expected it to be more like Rhodesia, but no, the white population was never much more than 60,000, but this was with a backdrop of an increasing and land hungry indigenous population.

The other thing as we’ve seen before, is that the small size of the population met that the same people were continually flung together, and so might explain some of the excesses of the white population in Kenya in colonial times.

Rhodesia and South Africa were the only ones to have a significant (and urban) white minority, making them much more than just a gaggle of farmers, administrators and hangers on, and who could either be bought out, as in Kenya, or who (mostly) had no stake in the country as was the case with the populations of the Asian colonies.

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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