In this original, important and inspiring book, Robert Winder tells of the remarkable migrations that have founded and defined a nation. This book draws all their stories together in a compelling narrative. Biographical Notes. Robert Winder was literary editor of the INDEPENDENT. “Buying a Stamp? Sorry, We Only Serve Asylum-Seekers.” This headline indicates the kind of prejudice incurred by the latest batch of.
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How far is the recent immigration to Britain a new phenomenon, which is transforming the country’s character? Or is it only the last foreifners of the long story of our ability to absorb foreigners, and draw new strength from their energy and foreignefs It is a highly topical question, and in this timely book Robert Winder provides a wealth of background information to try to reassure contemporary alarmists.
He briskly traces the history of immigration, from the Normans to today’s asylum seekers, showing how each wave of foreigners provoked a new scare before they became accepted as a permanent part of the British scene.
He tells the story vividly, with fascinating contemporary quotations describing the impact of each new group of immigrants, from Jewish moneylenders to Huguenot weavers, from Irish labourers to Indian shopkeepers – until it seems hard to imagine Britain without these stimuli. He contends that we owe much more to immigrants than we think, and he hopes that by understanding the benefits “our own national pride can feel less clenched, less besieged”.
In fact, the idea of pure British blood, as he shows, has never corresponded with reality. As Daniel Defoe wrote in Defoe championed the need for foreigners and his foreingers famous character, Robinson Crusoe – often later taken as a model for British ingenuity and self-sufficiency – was described by Defoe as an immigrant bloody Bremen, called Robinson Kreutznauer.
Winder provides a backstage version of British history, with fascinating descriptions of how poor immigrants arrived from across the world, including Lascars, Chinese and Gypsies.
Cover book: Bloody Foreigners by Robert Winder
Inforeignfrs Gentleman’s Magazine reckoned there were 20, “negroe servants” in London alone. New trades and entertainments became dependent on resourceful immigrants from poorer countries: Further up the social scale, rich visitors particularly from the Indian empire began to influence British ideas. Incurry first appeared on a London menu; a few years later an Indian, SK Mahomed, established vapour baths in Brighton, and introduced the word shampoo.
In the midth century, the Sikh prince Duleep Singh was a member of the Carlton club, and complained about the fish knives. Qinderthe British elected the first Indian MP. But it was the waves of mass immigrants who provoked the serious public outcries, about blooey threat to jobs, peace or public health; particularly the Irish refugees from the potato famine: It was not till much later that it became clear that the shocking conditions were caused not so much by Irish habits as by the unprecedented increase in Britain’s population, which almost doubled in 40 years from What is most striking from this history is how fitful and accidental were the patterns of immigration, and how volatile the British attitudes, as they first reacted against new waves, and then came to terms with them.
Foreignesr was not till the late 19th century that a bpoody movement arose against the “influx” of new immigrants, particularly Jews arriving in the East End of London from eastern Europe: Liberals tried to stem the public clamour to restrict immigration, including a young Winston Churchill, who urged that there was no good reason to abandon “the old tolerant and generous forejgners of free entry and asylum”.
But the Tory government was determined, and in it passed the Aliens Act, which for the first time restricted immigration.
The act was only weakly enforced, but the first world war soon tightened the restrictions and immigration would never be so free again. In the second world war, after their first panicky detention of Germans in the Isle of Man, the British showed a more tolerant attitude to immigrants, who they needed to win the war, including thousands of Polish refugees: They were hospitable to black soldiers who came with the American forces and often appeared more courteous than the white Americans.
But the postwar black immigrants received a much more hostile reception, even though they were sanctioned by the Labour government, which faced a shortage of labour; bloody the arrival of Caribbeans on the Empire Windrush in provoked a backlash of racism, which was followed by more scares about Asian immigrants and by drastic legislation.
Looking back on those fierce arguments and panics about Caribbeans, Indians or Bang-ladeshis, it seems odd to see how little serious thought or information lay behind them. British governments were curiously uninterested in selecting the most productive immigrants. They were alarmed by a potential inrush of Indian traders from East Africa – who soon turned out to be invaluable additions to the economy, reviving corner-shops and pharmacies, and building up small businesses throughout Britain.
They cynically changed the law to keep out the Chinese from Hong Kong, which deprived Britain of many brilliant entrepreneurs who went instead to America, Canada or Australia. They admitted tens of thousands of Indians, but made no effort to attract the highly qualified mathematicians who would play a central role in Silicon Valley in California. What also seems odd in retrospect – which Winder only touches on – is the very limited view of “race relations”, a concept too readily imported from America.
Most nloody the proponents of race relations in the s and 60s, which became a thriving industry, omitted to discuss the most obvious way of improving relations foreignerrs by intermarriage and mixed partnerships.
In America there were far fewer mixed marriages and partnerships, particularly between whites and blacks, and interracial sex was still often a taboo subject. But in Britain, white women – and later men – were much more adventurous and less racist; so that today the rate of intermarriage in Britain is the highest in Europe.
The census recordedchildren as “mixed race” – while the total was much higher.
As Winder rightly comments: So how does the growing inflow over the past decade mark a real break in the historical pattern? And undoubtedly there is today an unprecedented economic need for immigrants, at a time when the birth rate of white Britons has declined dramatically, forekgners young whites are tragically unqualified bolody unmotivated, and the ageing population desperately bloodt productive young workers to support it.
Yet British immigration policy remains as unplanned and accidental as ever, responding to immediate external pressures and crises rather than wineer any perceived long-term vision. In humanitarian terms it can be defended, though it often appears callous and short-sighted. But in terms of Britain’s future character or economic advantage, it shows little sign of serious thought or foresight. The more profound question, to which this book provides many clues, is how far the whole concept of Britishness is being undermined by new immigrants.
It is particularly difficult to answer among groups like the Bangladeshis, who resist assimilation and interracial mixing. Undoubtedly Muslim populations present special problems, with their own powerful and separate culture.
Cover book: Bloody Foreigners by Robert Winder | The Sunday Times
bloody A Cabinet Office report in painted a worrying picture of Muslim underachievement. The religious divide may be no greater than that which separated Catholic Irish and Protestant Britons in the 19th century; but the relationship with Muslims will provide a serious challenge to British leadership, exacerbated by the fears of terrorism from fundamentalists.
Yet the old concepts of the British character, with specific values and virtues, have already dissolved in the explosion of individualism and materialism in the past two decades. As Winder suggests in an important insight, “When we dwell on the diligent and unpretentious good manners that once typified England – the much-satirised diffidence in the face of queues, courtesy in the face of mishaps, patience in the face of adversity – we need to realise that such traits may be more common now in migrant Britain, with its strong family loyalties and principles of obligation, than in the brash, every-man-for-himself mainstream.
This useful and readable book should provoke many readers to reconsider their picture of Britishness, and to realise how much of our enterprise and tolerance has originated from the interplay with immigrants who were once seen as dangerously foreign. Who Runs This Place? History books Higher education Immigration and asylum Society books reviews.