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‘The Tredegar riots of 1911: anti Jewish disturbances on south Wales’ by C. Holmes

‘The Tredegar Riots of 1911’ by Colin Holmes describes the racial and ethnic violence which occurred in south Wales in August 1911 when Welsh locals began to attack and loot Jewish businesses within the town. In this article Holmes uses evidence from the Home Office file containing telegrams that were passed between Tredegar and Abergavenny and the Home Office which outline the level of concern that the riots caused at the time. Additionally, within the article Holmes demonstrates how Britain has a national ego when it comes to discussing racial and ethnic violence, as it flatters itself into believing it is a tolerant country with decency. However, he argues that is an ‘enduring myth’ and his discussion of the Tredegar riots establishes this.

The Tredegar riots began on Saturday 19th August and ended suddenly the following weekend. Jewish shops were wrecked and looted within the town to such an extent that the military were asked to intervene and there was the intention of rioters to precede over the mountains to attack other Jews in different villages. With the population of only 160 Jews in Tredegar, Holmes highlights that this was ‘a clear indication that large numbers of a minority group are not needed to generate violent opposition’.

The view of the presiding magistrate at Tredegar was that at first, the violence was specifically directed against the Jewish community themselves. However, Holmes suggests that by the time of the riots, violence against the Jewish community had become more generalised and joined with other tensions. For instance, he describes how multiple strikes against the coal and railway sectors had raised social tensions and caused personal distress prior to the riots. Therefore, the Jews were made the scapegoats for the problems that the workers had experienced in Tredegar.

Moreover, Holmes discusses how there was already a pattern of violence present in Welsh society regarding race and ethnicity. He gives examples of the Irish and their economic, political and religious differences, the Chinese community with the Cardiff Maritime Review calling them ‘cheap’ and also after the Tredegar riots, in 1912 with the traveller communities in Llanelli and in 1919 there was violence against the black population.

Holmes therefore concludes that such violence did not only occur in Wales and such events have their parallels. He argues that it becomes clear that most ethnic and racial minorities in Britain at different times in a variety of places have found themselves targets of physical attacks and assaults. Overall, Holmes suggests that racial and ethnic violence will be a persistent presence within society.

One thought on “‘The Tredegar riots of 1911: anti Jewish disturbances on south Wales’ by C. Holmes

  1. The blog is well structured to provide a detailed analysis of the argument set out by Holmes. By firstly describing the riots in Tredegar this puts the argument of Britain being intolerant to migrants into context. The fact that the riots spread and weren’t concentrated to one area shows just how out of control the situation got in such a short space of time. It was clearly a tense time as the desperate economic situation caused frustration and anger. Eventually this got the better of the Welsh population and was targeted towards the Jewish community as they were seen to be stealing jobs. Additionally, the detail provided on the continuing violence and the notion of all minorities being eventually attacked shows the extreme prejudice of Britain at the time. Overall, the blog does well in breaking down the key points made in the article and articulating them in such a way that the links between points are visible. The fact that at the end an overall summary is provided shows a depth of understanding of how the article fits into the wider perspective.

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