Hugh Purcell looks at how 90 years ago the British Empire rejected the principle of racial equality on which the Commonwealth is now based.

The Commonwealth, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2009, is dedicated to the principle of racial equality.  The Singapore Declaration of 1971 proclaims: ‘We believe in equal rights for all citizens regardless of race… and racial discrimination as an unmitigated evil of society.’ Yet it was the British Empire Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 that effectively prevented the so-called ‘racial equality clause’ from inclusion in the Convenant of the League of Nations.