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Harold Pollins, ‘The Jews’

This article by Harold Pollins, as the name suggests focuses on the experiences of Jewish individuals within Britain, with a focus primarily on the years leading up to the First World War. Pollins was a renowned historian of Anglo-Jewish history. 

This article by Pollins provides an thorough discussion into the experiences of European Jews in the years leading up to the First World War and examines some of the push and pull factors for their migration. Pollins discusses that one of the major pull factors of Jewish migration westward was that of greater economic opportunity in lands of economic advancement such as Britain and North America, as well as the promise of freedom in a foreign land. A major push factor – especially for Russian Jews – was exactly the opposite of the pull factors above. Pollins highlights that in 1830s majority of the Russian Jewish population was forced to live in the Pale of Settlement. The Pale of Settlement was a western region of Imperial Russia between 1791 and 1917 where only the Jewish citizens could reside, and there residency was forbidden elsewhere.

The migration of Jews into Britain, as Pollins highlights was often a place of trans-shipment where they stopped temporarily on their way to American cities, such as New York. However, during their stop it is documented that some were tricked out of money, leaving them stranded in Britain (this links well with ‘Point of Arrival’ by Herman Landau, 1887). In some cases however, Pollins advocates for chain migration of European Jews who likely followed their family or friends who arrived here before them. The articles points out that although Jewish migration into Britain was a cause for concern amongst the public, which can be seen through the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration – which was primarily focused on Jews – as well as the 1905 Aliens Act, it is important to note that European Jewish migrants accounted for 1-2% on the population increase between in the year 1881-1911.

Pollins examines the settlement of Jews in Britain also through looking at where they settled and other aspects of their communities. The article summarises that Jewish migrants were easily distinguished in Britain due to speaking Yiddish and their sense of dress primarily, which added to the view of them as ‘aliens’. Pollins notes that Jewish migrants stuck together through settling in cities where they formed their own communities and working primarily in the same sectors/for the same employers.

In terms of evidence, Pollins focuses greatly on statistics of population increases as well as an analysis of the sectors in which Jewish migrants were employed. Further, Pollins reflects on the Booth survey of the 1880’s which he says contributed to the associated of poor working conditions with Jewish immigrants. Lastly, Pollins also refers to a couple of newspapers in order to illustrate the hostile attitudes towards Jewish incomers.

2 thoughts on “Harold Pollins, ‘The Jews’

  1. This blog post is well written and structured, giving a detailed account of the article by Pollins. The post explains push and pull factors that were relevant to Jewish people, as well as the fact that many were scammed upon arrival to Britain. Furthermore, the importance of the Aliens Act of 1905 is shown through the post, furthering our knowledge of the political advancements and government attitudes during this period. Additionally, the post depicts to the general view of Jewish people, and immigrants in general, that was held by many British people at this time, which links to one of the main module topics of the experience of immigrants in Britain. Overall, this blog post is detailed and gives insight into the experience of Jewish people in Britain during our period of study.

  2. This blog post is well structured and written, and makes it easy to understand the main points that Pollins was making in his article. The main reasons for the aliens act being introduced in 1905 are clearly highlighted throughout the post. Overall, the blog post gives a good insight into the Italian experience in Britain and a detailed summary of Pollins article.

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