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Session Four – C. Holmes ‘Anti Semitism in British Society, 1876-1939’

This book by Holmes, as suggested by the title, explores the experience of Jews in Britain at the end of the nineteenth century into the beginning of the twentieth century. The chapter ‘Movements and Measures Against Jews’ details the organised attacks and experiences held by the Jewish population in Britain. Holmes is a specialist in Social and Economic History.

This chapter by Holmes provides an in-depth analysis of the British Brothers League (BBL) and varying attempts in Britain and Ireland that displayed hostility towards Jews. He examines the anti-Semitic nature of the organisation and the United Kingdom itself. Holmes begins the chapter by speaking of the British Brothers League, illustrating that the increase in immigration after 1900 and the current social pressures in London helped the emergence of the league.

Holmes recants the cold manifesto of the league, which states that alien paupers were ‘driving English people out of their native parishes and literally taking the bread out of English peoples mouths’ which was a comment on the American Aliens Act, stressing that if Americans needed restrictions on a country as grand in size of that, then it stressed immediate need for Britain to take action. By including this, Holmes immediately illustrates the brutal hostility of the local population towards the Jews.

As the BBL was growing,  the organisation faced controversy with many differing opinions on alien immigration / anti-Semitism and thus, Tory MP’s were warned about their involvement with the league and often the BBL were associated with ‘extremists’ that had ‘a warmth of language’. Through the negative connotations of the BBL, political officials spent time associating themselves with the Immigration Reform Association (IRA) instead. The IRA, tightly controlled by upper and middle class restrictionists, was opposed to the immigration of those who had ‘bad character’. Their manifesto specifically stated they lay no claim to stress upon the ethnic origins of immigrants. The IRA was favoured by the Conservative government, it was viewed as the more ‘respectable’ group.

Furthermore, Holmes makes sure to document the cases of anti-Semitism in other parts of Britain and Ireland to document the agitation felt by the public. Holmes comments on Limerick, Ireland which had several outbreaks of anti-Semitism often tracing back to a Redemptionist monk. The hostility went as far as the local population planning organised attacks and boycotting Jewish businesses which lasted two years, driving the majority of the Jewish community in Limerick out.

Overall, Holmes details the organisations involved and attacks made that express the hostile environment of Jews in Britain. He uses over 96 sources to illustrate the anti-Semitism in Britain, ultimately concluding on the fact the Aliens Bill is not explicitly anti-Semitic as nothing within the bill specifically casts out Jews, but the organisations at hand in putting the bill through may be another story.

3 thoughts on “Session Four – C. Holmes ‘Anti Semitism in British Society, 1876-1939’

  1. This blog post is very effective in allowing the reader to understand C.Homes arguments on why there was various cases of hostile attitudes and nature’s towards the Jewish community within Britain and Ireland. An informative description is also given on who the British Brothers League was, and why they had such strong anti Semitic views. The description of how homes included a wide range of sources within his article, and that his concluding points describes how the Aliens bill, versus the organisations such as BBL had effects on the Jewish minorities, demonstrates how Homes carried across his viewpoints through the text. This allows the reader a greater understanding of the arguments within the text as a whole, and how He arrived at this conclusion.

  2. This blog provides a clear insight into the source written by C Holmes as it effectively establishes the hostility held towards the Jews within 19th century Britain and Ireland. It provides a good understanding on the British Brothers League as it not only goes into detail to what Holmes argued, it also provides some detailed context of anti-Semitism and Tory MP’s throughout Britain as well as providing context on how the IRA was mainly controlled by middle and upper-class and how this group was mainly favoured by the conservative government. This provides the reader with a better understanding of the text as it clearly provides them with the historical background of the article. Overall this blog is well written and provides a good understanding of C Holmes by effectively analysing the key aspects of the source.

  3. This post is really well written and is successful in extending the discussions on a few of the topics in the seminar. The author’s arguments are explained well and it also provides detailed information about the BBL and the IRA. I took particular interest in the point that the IRA was favoured by the Conservative government as this was something I wasn’t aware of before. Overall, the conclusion that the Aliens Bill was not directly anti-semitic but the individuals who put it together can be argued to be the case is an important point to finish on and a great way to get Holmes’ argument across.

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