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“Sit down, you haven’t reached that stage yet”, African Caribbean children in Leicester schools 1960‐74, Lorna Chessum.

This article discusses the experiences of some African Caribbean Children within Leicester schools during the 1960s, in connection with the local education authority. The research that is discussed by Chessum is from a collection of interviews of some 25 African Caribbean individuals, who had arrived within Britain between 1940 and 1975. The research was also provided by the local press and the sub-committees of the education committee of Leicester.

By 1991, the census showed that within Leicester there was the largest population of both black, and Asian residents than any other city within the United Kingdom. The city was known for prosperity, as it was home to a large proportion of two-income families, resulting in a high yearly household income. The predominate amount of African Caribbean individuals were working class, however, some that arrived after the war possessed qualifications from the West Indies. 

However, Chessum notes that, even with qualifications, faced discrimination due to their race, which resulted in many struggles finding employment within teaching roles for example. Clifton Robinson’s struggles showed that although he passed two scholarships, one from the RAF, and a second which was a degree in educational psychology, he was turned away from a teaching post that he applied to due to his race. After the employer discovered Robinson’s race, he was told the post had been filled, however, the same position went back up a week later. Robinson did manage however to secure a teaching job within Leicester, at Mellor Street School in 1951. He later became the first Black Headteacher in Britain and became an important figure for education within the city. Robinson after witnessing the ignorance of many white teachers within the city about children from the West Indies conducted a study on the children who attended the school. He later offered up his services to other schools in order to help them accommodate more children, which was taken up on a regular basis. Robinson noted however during his research that children from both white and black nationalities would be seen playing together, and would write within the class of their friendships with one another. Robinson highlighted that it was the parents racist, and discriminative views that tried to pull them apart.

Children were noted as some of the earliest arrivals from the Caribbean during the 1950s and faced a large culture shock upon arrival, many missed their homes, and struggled to understand why they had been sent by family members to the UK. Chessum discusses the importance of the relationship between family structure, and the migration process, where often family identity was the primary loyalty within Barbadian families. However, this method of children care that was often described as “leap-frog” due to the amount of movement, was often classed as inadequate to white families at the time. The migration of children was also linked to the racist view that Black culture was inferior, as well as the low attainment of Caribbean children within Schools.

An example from Editha Drew describes her time at a Girls school within Leicester as being a “terrible time” where she would be seen as a dunce who didn’t know anything, especially compared to the other white children, and where put in classes of age, rather than standard. Another example came from Oscar Frank who detailed that within Barbuda he was at the top of his class, however, within Leicester he was put back four years, not because of his knowledge or skills, but because of where he had come from. 

The Leicester Education Association responded in three distinctively discriminative ways according to Chessum, the first included the titling and rationalising of all Black, and Asian children within the Leicester school system as “immigrants”, which was being used to separate the individuals in a negative manner, away from the rest of society. Secondly, the children were defined as “West Indians” purely in order to monitor their numbers, and keep them low. Lastly, the children were seen as inferior to their white classmates and were treated as such within the classrooms, children were then often left without a school to attend, even in areas of low attendance, their presence was not wanted. Often teachers had gone on to complain over the issues of language barriers and would use this as their reasoning for why many were being left without an education, or for their poor treatment.

 The British government was aware of these problems and wished to persevere British influence within the colonies.  The government’s policy of dispersal was raised in 1963, where it was stated that schools should have no more than 30% of it’s pupils being immigrants. Discussions such as these along with the language struggles that led to further discrimination shows that through the 60s policies were being created to further show the perceived “problems” of immigrant children, and how these problems could be stopped by removing the children, as opposed to attempting to help, educate, and accommodate children from both Black, and Asian communities. There was evidence of Black, Asian, Polish, and other immigrants groups living within Leicester since 1945, and yet throughout the 1960s, nothing had been done to help in the fair education of these minority children.

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Wendy Webster, Defining Boundaries: European Volunteer Worker women in Britain and narratives of community, (2000).

This source looks into the recruitment of female European volunteer workers (EVW’S) that came from camps within Europe for displaced persons to the British labour force during the 1940s. EVW’s were titled as “suitable” immigrants, after being deemed better than those branded undesirable, but not equal to the dominate white ethnicities within Britain. Webster tries to understand how gender was significant in defining the boundaries of national belonging, examining the testimonies of women who came to Britain through deportation, displacement, or exile. 

The recruitment of displaced persons from camps in Germany and Austria, to the British labour force, meant that EVW’s were denied refuge status. EVW’s included a range of many nationalities such as Polish, Ukrainian, Latvian, and Lithuanian. Although men were the majority of those recruited, into jobs such as mining, agriculture and textiles, Webster states that 21,434 women joined the scheme too, under the title of a “suitable” immigrant.

Webster points out that within literature, EVW’s are often missed out when discussing their impact on immigration policy, and in particular within gender history, and the impact of white, female migrants within the British labour force. The phrase suitable was widely used during the 1940s, and during a 1947 parliamentary debate they were described as “the spirit and stuff of what we make Britons”. The notion appeared that the EVW’s were still branded aliens, however due to their nationality, where the best option that Britain could get to help its labour force, in particular, when in comparison to both Black, and Asian immigrants, forming a hierarchy of suitability due to race.  Jewish survivours, who had been placed within the displaced personal camps were also targeted against and often were referred to as the bottom of the desirability list.

During a time of post-war reconstruction in Britain, the EVW’s offered a move to recruit labour from abroad, and the encouragement of British emigration. EVW men were preferred over men from the colonies and were seen as a way out of the growing labour shortage. EWV women were preferred over women fro the colonies, as they were described as better workers. Due to the fact that EVW’s were seen as aliens, they were employed on a contract basis, and could be controlled, or deported if unsatisfactory. Trade union fears grew over the wages of EVW’s and it was believed that they were being used to undercut wages, and ultimately the number of these workers where restricted. However, they were still regarded as a threat to both the livelihoods and conditions of indigenous workers. 

The role of a women had been defined since the 19th century as motherhood, and that if numbers within Britain were maintained then the work of an imperial nation could be achieved. Winston Churchill started actively promoting people to have larger families, however, there were fears over interracial mixing, which promoted the EVW workers further as they were deemed “suitable”. The most important aspect of an indigenous woman became her ability to have children, compared to an EVW woman that was to work. The identity as a low paid, low-status worker was part of of the way that female subordinate white ethnicities were constructed, and the separation of mothers vs workers grew wider. 

The narratives of such women where collected by Bradford Heritage project, and account many of the female experiences of EVW workers arrivals in Britain after being displaced. The accounts tell of scary, violent, and sudden removals of themselves, and their families from their homes in the middle of the night, without any belongings, showing the brutality of the process, and the discriminative, and cold responses they also received once in Britain. Organisations, clubs, societies, and communities for EVW women within Britain become very important for their livelihoods as many described, that “if I don’t help myself, no one will”.

Overall the British Government recruited EVW women in order to boost export drive, and help them in the national war effort, whilst denying them refugee status.  Although the British saw the indigenous women as the ideal mothers, and housewives, the stories of the EVW showed that they valued family life, and their communities within Britain as key to their survivals, and not just their ability to work.  Their desire to return to their home nations also shows that they saw themselves as exiles, and undesirables whilst living in Britain, even after being labelled as the most suitable workers in comparison to other workers of different races such as Black, and Asian EVW’s who were treated even worse. EVW women’s personal sense of identity shows that family life and community support was used, and highly valued, in helping them to recover and heal after their trauma from dispossession, and displacement, and to fight back from racism, and discrimination. 

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W. Webster, “Enemies, Allies, and transnational histories” (2014).

W. Webster, Enemies, Allies, and transnational histories (2014)

Austrians, Germans, neutral Irish, and Italians during the mid-1940s within Britain, were facing mass internment, after being labelled “enemies” by the British government. There was a shift, however, in the views of said “enemies” after Winston Churchill, recruited many into the British forces, who became loyal allies. This article focuses on the formed transnational allegiances, focusing on those who helped contribute to the war effort, even after facing comments of treachery from their own, fellow nationals. Webster tries to bring attention, and commemoration to the international allies, who Webster describes, as being often neglected through historical literature, even after giving their lives.

Webster gives an example of just how fast the opinions of the foreign “enemies” shifted. An example of two German Jewish brothers is given, describing their arrest in 1940 after the new mass internment policy’s, this, however, was a completely different story by 1942, when both brothers emerged as members of his majesty’s forces, as opposed to the previous dangerous enemies that they were labelled s mere two years earlier.  The outbreak of the war was forcing people to question nationally, within both private, and public life, as to who should be deemed allies, and enemies became more and more blurred between countries. 

Many neutral Irish, at the time, had also been targeted, and attracted hostile views, due to suspicion placed on them being spies, and fifth columnists. A fifth column is any group of people who undermine a larger group from within, usually in favour of an enemy group or nation. Mass observation evidence from the time (M-O) often showed that individuals would lump all foreigners together, whether they were German, Italian, or Irish, showing why the internment of all aliens was a popular choice. There were some exceptions that could be seen, however, for example, Belgium, and dutch refugees living within Leeds, were offered various shelters, and forms of care from the population, who viewed them as allies.

All those who enlisted to the British forces swore an oath of allegiance, but many kept a range of ties to their own families, countries, and communities overseas. Many Irish individuals were motivated through the pay, the chance of a new adventure away from home, and they’re hatred for the nazi regime. Irish women, unlike other women who could enlist, were not allowed, as it conflicted with their family loyalties. Many Irish supported Britains, and Eire’s policy of neutrality, upon arrival home however after the war, Many Irish faced hostility for their involvement. The majority of both German, and Austrian refugees decided to remain within Britain, after the war.

However, support for mass internment started to fade quickly after many of scandals, and horrible treatments of the internees came to light, including the sinking of the Arandora star- that was carrying people to Canada, many of which were refugees, and anti-fascists when it was sunk by a German torpedo, that made people finally start to become aware of the discriminative and dangerous roundups of both Germany and Italians. Deportation was shortly after abandoned by the government, and the white paper was published, stating 18 different ways internees could be released, and by 1941 more than 10,000 had. Webster showed the degree in which the British public had changed their views on the internment of ‘enemy” aliens, by stating that a further M-O, one month after the white papers publishing, detailed that now “less than a quarter now think that all aliens should be interned”.

Other examples of anti-alien riots and pro internment movements were given, such as the anti-Italian riots of June 1940, where many Italian owned businesses were targeted, as well as items that they possessed such as their bicycles, which had been given to them by farmers, or ministries of agriculture for their journeys to work, this was deemed “soft treatment. Anger also grew after photographs of starving British prisoners in Germany where released, which caused many to believe that German prisoners of war were being treated too kindly, there was a call for the German prisoners to have their rations reduced by the Manchester Grocers so that they received less than the Britons. 

However, by the late 1940’s many of the previously labelled “aliens” were starting to be recognised for a variety of the skills that they possessed, such as German speakers, who were useful in prisoner camps, often highly secret missions, special radio operators, and other tasks where their language skills could be used. Italians also seemed jobs were speaking Italian could be beneficial in roles such as scriptwriters, translators, and actors.

Overall the recruitment of “aliens” into the British forces, as well as war work, helped to reduce internment, as well as breaking down the idea that all Germans, and Italians, as well as other foreign individuals, were all the same and should be treated as enemies to Britain, and instead, a hierarchy of allies to the country, that they would serve, and lay down their life, making the ultimate sacrifice. Webster explained this was often missed out on through historical writings, and that the life of such Germans, Italians, and Irish should be commemorated, and praised for the vital support that they gave.

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Aliens, Migrants and maids; Public discourses on Irish immigration to Britain in 1937, Louise Ryan

Louise Ryan discuses two documents, both from the year 1937 including the Liverpool press, and an official report on the Irish Free State, to try and understand tensions between the governments, and local levels, of Irish free state citizens, as well as how often Irish women migrants where ignored, or excluded from history 

A question arose in parliament in 1937, over the policies in place regarding the southern Irish. Free state citizens within Britain had complex statuses, as those from Southern Ireland were not classed as citizens of the UK, unlike individuals from Northern Ireland. The free state, however, would change this, as it was known as part of the British empire, and would therefore give them the same rights. During this period, therefore, there was both the rise in Irish immigrations to Britain and an increase in demand for boundaries to be placed over the free entry of Irish  immigrants.  

The Liverpool press was described by Ryan as being a highly valuable source, as it represented the vocal, local concerns over the large influx in Irish Migrants during the 1930s. The article witnessed many of the prejudiced and discriminative views held against the Irish, and Catholic’s within the city, and was, therefore, no surprise that it played a key part In the lobbying leading to the inquiring on Irish immigration.  The negative views had been a key feature within Liverpool, with many street fights, and stone-throwing from anti-Irish racists, especially near dockland areas that became known as the Irish “ghettos” where the desired “undesirables” would live. The Irish were blamed for requiring an apparent great deal of public assistance expenditure, as well as an increase in crime rates, and the popularised “paddy” stereotype. Ryan also noted that women made up an overwhelming majority of Irish immigrants, and yet usually such press would refer to the problems of Irish-men, neglecting to mention, or acknowledge the female Irish presence, which was often attributed to the fact that many worked inside British homes as domestic servants, and were made invisible. Irish maids were also often called “foreign” servants, which shows the confusion around the status of Irish immigrants.

The inter-departmental inquiring was set up to investigate the numbers of Irish immigrants coming to Britain, and to see if they really were a burden, on public funds. There was discussion over the accuracy of many of these claims. Enda Delaney from the Conservative government was reluctant to impose restrictions on the Irish stating that they were British subjects, it would be both difficult and costly to impose restrictions, and that they were valuable reserves for the army of labour. Ryan goes on to highlight that the second source of focus. “Migration to Great Britain from the Irish Free State” was a report of the inter-departmental committee, which contained useful information that told of the many contractions that the British government made, over their views of Irish migrant labour. Many were disappointed however that it contained little up-to-date statistics when trying to determine if they were keeping local workers out of jobs.

The two sources represented both sides to the argument and how the government tried to lessen the issue of Irish immigration, and that they were actually described as being “from the same coin”. The Liverpool document highlighted both the growing criticisms and attacks against Irish immigrants, compared to the inter- departmental inquiry, that showed how the government tried to negotiate the sources of cheap labour, which was being viewed as “alien” but was very nervous to impose any restrictions at the time.

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“Strangers on the inside: Irish women servants in England, 1881” Bronwen Walter, 2009

Strangers on the inside: Irish women servants in England, 1881, Bronwen Walter, discusses the importance of Irish domestic servant’s within English homes during the 19th century, and tries to identify why, although their importance, where largely excluded from history.

Irish female migrants during this period were in search of accommodation and were actively encouraged to seek it by Catholic priests, within the homes of the English middle class, where they could work as live-in servants. Although Irish women were a relatively small proportion of all domestic servants, by 1881 they quickly became very spread out within England, and English households. Walter highlights that Irish domestic servants became known as the “others” to the white, middle-class, male-owned households in England during the 19th century. He discusses how their role within the home actively attributed to the construction of masculinity and its boundaries of the men’s homes they worked within.  The concept of “the master of the house” was developed at a time were male identities were being threatened by growing European uncertainty. Domestic servants were to perform tasks such as cleaning, and maintenance, as well as often childcare duties, so that the middle-class women could still enjoy a leisured lifestyle and feel above the servants that they hired.

The role of ethnicity compared to that of class, or gender, is often left unexamined by historians. Therefore, Walter highlights that the lack of examination on the national, and ethnic origins of Irish servants within the later 19th century, contributes to the invisibility of the servant classes as a whole.  In the rare occasion that Irish servants were mentioned within literacy during the period, they were exposed to a lack of respect, and a range of stereotypes and slurs, such as the fact they were dirty, unskilled, and all terrible cooks. The writings failed to discuss the many jobs that they performed, and their hard work, which was integral to the middle-class home.  Walter highlights one of the servants most important roles within the homes that they worked at and an indication that they had a greater impact on the family, than just the cleaning that they did, which was childcare. Irish domestic servants had an extraordinarily important role by caring for the middle, and upper-class children, so that women could appear untouched by manual labour. They helped to raise and educate the children, and therefore the raising of young middle-class men, who often spent more time with the Irish servants, than their mothers. The knowledge of the Irish culture absorbed into the children and often carried with them into adulthood, which worried some parents of the upper classes, as they thought that the Irish servants may be clashing their catholic views, upon the strong protestant Englishness of the time.

The article looks into the 1881 census, and the fact that a 5% sample revealed a better insight into the amount, specific location, and relationships that they had within middle-class households. By a large amount, the highest proportion of Irish-born women, living in England, and working, were domestic servants, and yet through history, they are often ignored. Their contributions to the construction of ‘Englishness” remained taken for granted. The census showed that the total number of domestic service workers was 750,000 in 1851, which then rose to 1.3 million in1891. Overall, therefore, it showed that the Irish born servants had an integral position within English homes during this period, and although their work and importance often went ignored,  studies looking at the data from censuses such as 1881, are starting to understand this role better, to shed light on how they shaped many English homes.

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David Cesarani, “An Alien Concept? The continuity of anti-alienism in British society before 1940” (1993)

David Cesarani’s chapter “An Alien Concept? The continuity of anti-alienism in British society before 1940” (1993) This chapter discusses, how the construction of the term alien arose, and  How within the nineteenth century a visible shift in the attitudes towards aliens took place in Britain. The link between economic, political, and personal ideas of nationality, as well as the large influx in immigrants numbers are all discussed in the possible answer as to why Britain was dived  between pro, and anti-alienists.

Cesarani discusses how anti-alien feelings were difficult to describe as one select subject, but rather a large mixture of feelings linked to crime, revolutionary politics, anarchism, and was inseparable with the construction of national identity and internal strains, which was expressed through English literature, preaching the importance of “Englishness”. It was hard according to Cesarani to place anti-alienism within a timeline, to avoid it faliing into the margins of history. He wanted to make it clear that anti-alienist views are located centrally in British society as well as its political culture. Bernard Porter a British historian, was quoted explaining that at the time that Britain believed it had, 

                                    “Moral and political superiority over her continental neighbours”

It was clear to Cesarani that Britain was far from innocent of Xenophobia, with evidence of its use of prejudice, stereotypes, and hateful attitudes towards minority groups including Russians, Jewish, Chinese, Germans, and African individuals. Bernard argued that the predominant source of these attitudes in 1870 came from nations who’s way of life and characteristics were different to that of Britain. The mass migrations of the early 1880s saw an influx in opinions and policy-making of the Jewish and eastern European minorities, arguments over housing and employment. The concept of the term alien was used to describe the hostile feelings of those who came from different parts of the world and brought their different cultures, languages, and ways of life. This in turn left many Brits feeling protective over the British nationality, and Cesarani stated that the threat ultimately led to the display of anti-alien attitudes.

By 1992 the first legislation to restrict alien movements appeared, and was linked to the fall of liberal England, as well as the First World War. In 1914 Reginald McKenna put through new aliens restrictions act, which included prohibited areas where aliens could not reside.  spy-mania, the Russian revolution, unemployment rises, and the effects of alleged opium smoking, were all targeted events promoting the normalising of anti alien behaviours.  By 1929 the act continued to evolve, and adopted more restrictions including that all aliens seeking work, had to obtain permits from the ministry of labour. This established a link between economic conditions and the control of immigration. Another example In 1920 was the fact that police could now close restaurants, places of entertainment, gathering points, and even restrain aliens without a warrant.By the 1930s much of the same stereotypes and negative attitudes remained, blaming immigrants  for high unemployment numbers, the spread of diseases, crime rates, and even the damage to property of Englishmen. And lastly by 1940 the press “with column” reported that 64 per cent of the British public deemed laws on aliens as being  “too lenient”. 

Cesarani concludes  that the concept of Anti-Alienism, particularly within the goverments and courts, was directly related to periods of economic struggles, political instabilities and threats from external countries. This was compared to the liberal pro-alienists, who Cesarani links with  public confidence and optimism . Anti-Alienist had been a direct link between British national identity, and the fear of Britain’s instability within the global sphere. The public had started to fear the loss of a British Identity, and a feeling of “Englishness” and as a result they turned to anti-aliens views to restrict their movements. 

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“The Germans” Aronsfeld, C. C, 1985

This article was written by Author C.C Aronsfeld in 1985,  published within history today. He discusses from his own personal experiences, life as a European Jew, after being impacted by  Nazi Germany. The article describes what life was like for individuals such as Aronsfeld,  after migrating to Britain, in search of a better and safer life during times of war.

By 1914 there was already a large number of Germans living within Britain at approximately 19,000. Many had come in search of freedom, safety, and better economic opportunities. However, Aronsfeld details shortly after this large influx of migrants, the “spymania” craze took place, where many British individuals turned violent and ensued hatred towards the minority group, which became increasingly popular,  blaming the Germans and Jewish for being spies during a time of war. H.G Wells described England at the time,  “All dignity was broken” towards its nationalists who started looting and destroying all shops owned, or even sounding like they were owned under a German name. Even businessmen or parliamentary men who had before been highly respected within the community were targets to the open violence.

“I have been ostracised by my native country…. I am boycotted by my adopted country”

This quote taken from the article (p8.) shows how Aronsfeld described the treatment of the German immigrants living within Britain during this period by the British public.  He describes how they were made to feel like enemy aliens, with the use of extreme prejudice and unfriendly attitudes, after the two world wars, within a place they had once sought refuge within. They no longer felt safe or welcome within either their birth country within Germany or their adopted home in Great Britain.

However, Prime minister at the time (1918) Herbert Asquith declared within parliament about the so-called “aliens” that he felt that a great body of the German minority group were respectful and honest. He discussed how a large sum of them worked with technical job sectors, and could not be spared, as they contributed a lot to the country and its wages.

An example given by Aronsfeld of the types of extreme prejudice and anti-Sematic views came from Sir Robert Van Sitart. Sitart was an understudy to the state of foreign affairs, 1938. He saw nazi views as being “deep-rooted” and refused to spare even those who had been proved anti-nazi living within Britain, he described them as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” giving an insight into how those within places of high power viewed germans as a whole, within Britain, categorizing them all as spies, and betrayers. His views were opposed by liberal groups of refugees who tried to campaign against his anti-semantic views within the “Fight for Freedom”.

Lastly, another example of the terrible conditions, and attitudes the German and German Jewish groups within Briain faced, was the use of a striking image (p15) of a camp in North England, 1940. The camp pictures a large group of refugees behind bard wired fences, surrounded by guards after being captured by the police. It is a clear example of anti-semantic behaviour, treating refugees like animals due to their race, religious beliefs, and country of origin.

The article, therefore, gives an insight into the lives and types of conditions, and problems that the Germans, and German Jewish minorities faced during the period of war between Nazi Germany and Britain, from an individual who identifies as a Europan Jewish man himself. It covers the term “aliens” and how this word was used to describe the treatment and attitudes migrants would be subject to, and how this reflects upon immigrants and immigration during the 20th century, from both everyday working families, as well as those in high positions of power such as the government. The article details upon further reading on the topic from a different viewpoint, including; Elie Halevy “history of the English people” pelican, 1979. A. J Sherman “Britain and refugees from the Third Reich 1933-1939″.