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“Middlesbrough 1961: A British race riot of the 1960s?”-Panikos Panayi

Panayi begins the article by stating that certain parts of the commonwealth immigrant experience in Britain are understudied. Since the end of the 1800s, all major immigrant groups in Britain have sustained physical attacks, but since the 1960s violence has not been carried out on a large scale, as it was for example during the First World War against German migrants. However small-scale attacks took place, including arson, physical violence and even murders.

Panayi starts the article by giving some detail of the movement of Asian migrants to Britain. The migration of Indians to Britain before the 1950s was on a small scale. Some servicemen stayed in the country after the wars, and usually stayed around ports such as London, Cardiff and Liverpool. Large scale Pakistani migration in Britain began in the late 1950s and early 1960s. By 1961 the Pakistani-born population of Britain was around 24,900, according to the census of that year, although it was thought to be more. In the Pakistani population of Britain in the 1960s, men outnumbered women on a scale of about 5,380 men to every 1000 women. This unequal ratio was due to many Pakistani men only intending to stay in Britain for a short time in order to earn money for their families, who they intended to return to.

This article looks at how hostilities developed towards Pakistani migrants and other immigrants, which led to the Commonwealth immigrants act of 1962 being passed. Panayi explained that in the years running up to 1962, British Xenophobia began to see its main targets as black immigrants, Indians and Pakistanis, rather than Jewish immigrants.

The main focus of the article is the attacks on Pakistani property in Middlesbrough in August 1961. Middlesbrough had many immigrant groups in the 1960s. Disorder in Middlesborough broke out on the 19th August 1961 and lasted until the 21st August. Crowds attacked the Taj Mahal café on Cannon Street, which belonged to an English woman and her Pakistani husband. This violence spread and rioters even turned on police. The disorder resulted in £1,200 worth of damage and 55 court prosecutions.

The Middlesborough disturbance was one of the last major incidents of whites attacking immigrant property on a large scale. Panayi describes these attacks in Middlesbrough as a race riot, and says they are an example of anti-immigrant violence in recent British history.

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The Right to Asylum: Britain’s 1905 Aliens Act and the Evolution of Refugee Law- Alison Bashford and Jane McAdam

From the 1880s, states and self-governing colonies in America, Australasia and South Africa began to introduce laws to regulate entry of ‘undesirable immigrants’, and Britain followed this trend with the 1905 Aliens Act.

The 1905 Aliens Act was passed in response to the persecution of Eastern European Jews and their forced migration, during which around 120,000 to 150,000 European Jews settled in Britain between 1881 and 1914. The act has been framed as the original basis for further and more substantial restrictions in the 1960s. There was no comprehensive system of regulation or restriction in Britain before this act was passed, except for the Registration of Aliens Act 1836, which was thinly implemented.

The main focus of this article was the asylum provisions which the act gave, which permitted entry to the UK to those who were at risk of persecution or prosecution for political or religious reasons. The asylum clause made a change from previous legislation and inspired the development of future legislation. For example, successive acts were passed in 1914 and 1919.

The article looks at the idea of the ‘right to asylum’ through the interwar and mid-twentieth century period.

The act defined certain immigrants as ‘undesirable’ and detailed processes by which undesirable immigrants could be sent back to their country of origin at many ports, or be deported if already a resident. Undesirable immigrants were defined as those who could not ‘decently support’ themselves and any dependents they may have had, those who were a ‘lunatic or idiot’, or those who had been sentenced for a non-political crime in a foreign country.

The article states that it is not often remembered that the 1905 Aliens Act was the first time an individual’s right to asylum was written into a law, and the article believes that this could be because British officials distanced themselves from the principle.

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The British Union of Fascists’ policy in relation to Scotland- Tony Milligan

In the article, Milligan explains that Fascist organisation in Scotland in the 1930s was limited in both numbers and its spread across the country.Despite a similar situation in England of rising unemployment which led to a rise in support for fascist organisations, Scotland did not see such a rise. However, this article states that Scotland was not unreceptive to extremist politics.

By the 1930s there were a number of anti-Catholic organisations in Scotland, such as the Scottish Protestant League and Protestant action, in both Edinburgh and Glasgow. These organisations were large and sometimes violent in order to achieve their political ends.

Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid called for a ‘species of Scottish fascism’ after Mussolini’s seizure of power, and proclaimed the formation of Clan Alban in 1930, inspired by the Italian blackshirts (although this largely only existed on paper and in MacDiarmid’s imagination.

The New Party, formed when Oswald Mosely broke from the Labour party over a disagreement over unemployment, had 5 candidates stand in West Scottish constituencies in 1931, but did not do well in the general election. Milligan explains that The New Party left a political vacuum in Glasgow after the party’s campaign was effectively abandoned in the city, and local supporters rallied around William Weir Gilmour in its place. Weir Gilmour had his own definite ideas about how a Scottish fascist movement should be built. He had seen the success of Alexander Ratcliffe’s Scottish Protestant League, and used it as a blue print for fascist work in Scotland, and his splinter group was also anti-catholic.

The article also explains that the British Union of Fascists played on Scottish fears that the rural North of Scotland would be made a dumping ground for Jewish refugees from Germany.

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W. M. Walker- “Irish Immigrants in Scotland: their priests, politics and parochial life”- Historical Journal 15:4 (1972) 649-667

This chapter aims to explain to what extent the Irish failed to fulfil Friedrich Engels expectations of them. Engels was convinced in 1845 that Irish immigrants in Britain had added an explosive force that would have significant consequences in British society. The chapter does this by looking at the religion of the immigrants, and the communities they created for themselves, looking particularly at Dundee.

The chapter says that while it is often considered how some of the British did not want the Irish to mix with British working class society, it is often not taken into account how the Irish in Britain also did not always wish to mix with the British population. The chapter says this was common among Irish Catholic, and was endorsed by Irish Catholic priests. Irish Churches, church halls and schools were built to create this exclusive and intensive Irish community.

For example, in Dundee in the early 1860s the physical signs for Irish Catholic presence were 2 churches and 3 Catholic schools (which the Dundee Advertiser described as “a cellar under the chapel”. These buildings served a community of around 20,000. In the next 10 years the size of the Irish Catholic community stayed roughly the same, but the number of churches and schools doubled, and Catholic church properties continued to be added up to the end of the century.

The Irish Catholic parochial life encompassed religious, political, economic, educational and recreational elements, and it was therefore very difficult to move away from.

The chapter summarises that the Irish did not have the impact on British society that Friedrich Engels thought it would have, because he did not take into account the religion of the immigrants and the community that they had while in Britain, which this chapter calls “the cult of the priest”.

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Stefan Manz “Civillian Internment in Scotland during the First World War”. In ‘Totally un-English’?: Britain’s Internment of ‘Enemy Aliens’ in Two World Wars, edited by R. Dove.

This chapter takes a brief look at the German migrant community in Scotland before the First World War, before looking at how German and Austrian settlers were treated during the war, and looking at conditions in the central Scottish internment camp. Previous studies by John C. Bird and Panikos Panayi show there was anti-German hysteria in the UK around the time of the First World War, as people believed that they were spies. However these studies do not tackle anti-German hysteria in a Scottish context, which this chapter does.

The German community in Scotland was 2,362 in 1911, versus 53, 324 in England and Wales. The chapter mentions types of German professions in Scotland, such as school and university teachers, hairdressers, bakers and miners. There was a high participation in German ethnic activities, but these were dissolved by the outbreak of war in 1914 by introduction of restrictive measures against ‘enemy aliens’ brought in by the UK Government, which Scotland fell under. Before and during the war many Germans in Scotland had their shop windows smashed in anti-German riots, just like in England. Establishments like restaurants were posting notices saying they would not serve Germans or German-born Britons as British customers were unwilling to sit near them.

The Aliens Restriction Act of the 5th of August 1914 gave the British wartime government the power to deal with ‘enemy aliens’ as they saw fit. As a result, the movement of Germans or Austrians living in Britain at the time of war was tightly monitored and controlled. The chapter gives the examples of Friedrich Bernhard Wiegand and Fritz A. Schrieber, who were two migrants living in Scotland at the time. Wiegand was interned as an ‘enemy alien’ in the Knockaloe internment camp on the Isle of Man in 1915, despite having lived in Scotland since 1899, and having a Scottish-born family. Wiegand was able to return to his family in November 1918. Schreiber was not so fortunate in his experience. He resigned from his job as Managing director of Tenents Brewery in Glasgow in 1916. The board told him that there was strong feeling against the re-imposition of a foreign worker in management. Schreiber was then interned, and then repatriated to Germany, where he died shortly after.

The chapter also states that Police Scotland would show up on the doorsteps of ‘enemy aliens’ and take them to a prison cell for a couple of nights, before being handed over to the military to be interned. Once in the internment camps, visits were restricted to Saturdays and were attended by an interpreter, and all ingoing and outgoing mail was censored. The long periods of internment and isolation caused boredom and depression. Work, recreation and education were the only ways to escape boredom. Around the camps German prisoners assisted in the infirmary and the kitchen. Many prisoners engaged in road building and played football.

During the war many German and Austrian settlers in Scotland were displaced. The whole of the Scottish East Coast was declared a prohibited area for ‘enemy aliens’.

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Jill Pellew- The Home Office and the Aliens Act, 1905

This blog post will discuss Jill Pellew’s article in the Historical Journal, ‘The Home Office and the Aliens act, 1905’.

The article talks about how the 1905 Aliens act was brought about in Britain. Pellow suggests this was due to a number of reasons, including the increase in Jewish refugees, home office concern that rising migration was a threat, and the increase in support for anti-immigration MPs.

Many Jewish refugees were arriving from Eastern Europe and Russia at the end of the 1800s, either fleeing persecution or simply looking for a better life. Many were heading to the United States of America, but some stayed and found work, particularly in tailoring. The high numbers of immigrants and the fear that many would not continue on to the USA helped lead to the creation of the 1905 Aliens act.

Pellew explains that there was a concern in the Home Office about a possible threat from the increase in rising migration, which was thought could come in the form of political instability or criminality. There was a particular fear about anarchists entering Britain, as there had been a wave of anarchist terrorism across Europe during the end of the 19th century. This fear about the political and moral backgrounds of migrants contributed to the 1905 act being created.

The article also suggests that the idea for an Aliens act really gained momentum in 1900 when a number of Unionist MPs gained seats in the east end of London, largely by supporting an anti-alien political line.

Pellew also gives some information as to what changes the act made. For example, the 1905 act stated that certain ports where ships were allowed to discharge passengers would now have immigration officers at them. These immigration officers would have the power to reject any ‘undesirable’ immigrants. An undesirable immigrant was specified in the act as someone who could not ‘decently’ support themselves and their dependants (although there was a special clause which made an exception for immigrants who were seeking entry as political or religious refugees). ‘Undesirables’ also included lunatics or idiots, those sentenced in a foreign country with which there was an extradition treaty, and those who already had an extradition treaty made against them.

The article also mentions that Winston Churchill agreed with home office officials that there should be a miniature Ellis Island facility in Britain, as it made it more difficult for ‘undesirable’ immigrants to evade detection.

Of the immigrants who were rejected due to the 1905 Aliens act, half of them appealed. Of this half, 38 per cent were successful.

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Session 2 – ‘Irish immigration in the 19th century Irish Emigration in the later Nineteenth Century’- D. Fitzpatrick

This chapter mentions how nearly half of the population of Ireland disappeared in the late 19th century, due to both the high mortality rate during the great famine, and mass emigration, but discusses mass emigration in more depth.

Fitzpatrick explains that Britain was an attractive destination to Irish emigrants as the journey cost less, meaning it was more accessible to migrants of many different social classes. Britain also attracted Irish migrants as it was easier for people to return home if they wanted to. As Fitzpatrick puts it “For those wishing to increase their earnings without abandoning hope of future employment at home, Britain was the most attractive destination”-pg 128

America was also popular with Irish expatriates, and in 1870, when the Irish overseas population reached its peak at over 3million, around three fifths of Irish expatriates lived in America. This was in part due to the coinciding of the Irish potato famine and the industrial recession in Britain.

State assistance for emigration to Australia greatly increased the number of Irish migrants who travelled there. Assistance meant that people from many different social classes could emigrate to Australia. As Fitzpatrick explains, “during the famine and its immediate sequel more than four-fifths of Irish emigrants to the Australian colonies were state assisted, and assistance in various guises remained the rule until the 1890s”-pg. 131

Irish immigrant groups were often recognised out of proportion to their numbers. This was due to “the unprecedented squalor, ignorance and ill-health of the famine emigrants” as Fitzpatrick puts it.-pg. 134.

This chapter also comments that Irish expatriates would often cluster together. This was in part a response to the narrow range of jobs that were available to them. This was not the case in Australia however, as Irish emigrants in Australia mixed much more. Fitzpatrick describes the diffusion of Irish migrants throughout the Australian population as “remarkable”-pg. 136. The chapter also states that there was a more equal balance of both men and women In Irish immigrants to Australia than there was in English or Scottish migrants.

This chapter provided detail into the reasons of Irish migrants’ movements outside of Ireland, specifically to Britain, America and Australia.