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Henry Maitles ‘Attitudes to Jewish Immigration in the West of Scotland to 1905’ Scottish Economic and Social History 15 (1995)

Maitles article is about Jewish immigration to the west of Scotland. It gives detail on many of the reasons that the Jewish community were harassed and bullied when they came here. The article also gives reasons as to why parliament brought in the aliens act 1905.

Maitles begins this chapter by noting that in the West of Scotland Many claimed that resentment and harassment towards immigrants did not happen despite evidence to suggest otherwise from immigrants. He further notes that the reason that Jewish people were coming to Britain was following the Russian revolution as it was suggested the only way to solve the Jewish problem would be if 1/3 emigrated, 1/3 converting and 1/3 being killed. He also notes that fast and cheap travel made it easier to relocate as steam ships and trains developed throughout the 19th century.

Racism and hostility toward immigrants were and still are harmful features of our society. There were false reports that the Jewish community lived in small shtetls and were peasant farmers. However, they were actually restricted to certain trades; financing, cigarette making and clothing. Maitles details how sweating in Britain was a significant factor in anti-immigration attitudes. He notes that many refugees were employed by masters to work at rock bottom rates for long hours in terrible conditions, which cut the rate of fully skilled workers. Sweating caused disease, overcrowding and it also caused a lack of sanitation. In London there were thousands of immigrants involved in sweating but the number in Glasgow was unclear. Sweating was seen as an immigrant problem and then by the end of the 19th century it was seen as a Jewish problem. This Highlighting the hostility towards the immigrants, as the blame should have been on the masters employing the immigrants for such low rates.

Maitles Further details about Immigration controls that came at the end of the 19th century. He details how Some immigrants were even in favour of the aliens act, as there was a class divide between the west and south side Jewish communities. Media outlets were reporting that Britain was a dumping ground for the diseased and poor immigrants as America and Canada would only accept the healthiest. Trade unions were also backing immigration controls to protect workers against poor conditions, wage undercutting and disease.

On August 11th 1905 the aliens act was passed and had immediate effect as the number of immigrants arriving in Britain was decreasing from previous years. However, the liberal government that came into power in 1906 were not harsh on this new law and were accused of flouting the law by the conservatives. The aliens act highlights how easily the British government were swayed by racist attitudes towards immigrants. Even though the immigrants were not to blame for their poor conditions and wages they were given the blame and treated poorly.

One thought on “Henry Maitles ‘Attitudes to Jewish Immigration in the West of Scotland to 1905’ Scottish Economic and Social History 15 (1995)

  1. This provides a good summary of showing how the pogroms occurring in Russia drove many Jews to immigrate to more tolerant countries, like Britain. It also highlights how technological advancements of the time allowed for families to travel cheaply, in hopes of finding work without experiencing any prejudice. However, this was not the case as this article does well to show. It shows how not only did Jews face discrimination from the British working class, but also from the Jews who had already settled within Britain prior to the mass immigration of the late 1880s. This article discusses how the rift between the working class and Jewish immigrants escalated due to the new immigrant’s willingness to work for cheaper and in worse conditions. This took jobs away from the British working class and had a negative impact on trades working conditions, primarily in the sweats industry. This article also briefly shows how the topic of immigration became a partisan issue within politics, as the conservative government forced the Aliens Act through in 1905. Whilst the Liberal government would be more laissez faire when dealing with future immigrants.

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