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L. Chessum, ‘Race and Immigration in the Leicester Local Press 1945-62’

Chessum’s article ‘Race and Immigration in the Leicester Local Press 1945-62’ is a progressive piece of work that seeks to explore the development of radicalised identities. Through the use of 1950 and 60s Leicester newspapers as well as historians such as Trogna and Hartmann & Husband, Chessmun shows that there was a consciousness of empire in the discourse of the local Leicester newspapers during the 1950s  and 60s.  Chessum notes two forms to this consciousness. One, stories of white emigrants were portrayed positively, with them being defined as “us” in the press. However, Chessum shows aspects of society, such as the West Indian community, to be defined as “them”. This contrast ultimately shows a consciousness of whites as a radical ethnic group, as well as different contexts to immigration. Two, the multiple references to South Africa and the apartheid showed South Africa as a model for organising race relations. However, after the Sharpeville massacre, apartheid was no longer presented as a model for race relations, as the press showed, Britain became critical and disillusioned.

There was three important newspaper in Leicester according to Chessum, the Leicester Mercury, Leicester Evening Mail, and the Illustrated Leicester, with the Mercury being the most important. The newspapers, as Chessum, argues brought a voice to the racial discourse by the way white and Black and Asian British migrants were portrayed. For those white migrants emigrating further afield, they were often described positively in the paper, being noted as brave and adventurous. For example, in a 1959 edition of the Mercury, there were full pages dedicated to letters from white emigrants. This, in turn, showed the links between the Leicester whites and the commonwealth whites as well as represented continuing consciousness of the empire. For the Black and Asian British subjects, there was a negative portrayal that focused on issues such as crime and disease. These stories were few in comparison to those of white emigrants. Therefore, Chessum argues that this shows the different contexts of immigration, one being positive and one being negative. White British emigrants were still seen as part of Britain, or “ours”, while Black and Asian British emigrants were noted apart with the idea of “them” being prevalent.

Chessum points to Cyril Osborne to illustrate the racial discourse. Osborne, an early and prominent campaigner for immigration control, was frequently printed in the Leicester Mercury. His views contrasted dramatically to the sympathetic stories of white emigrants. In a full-page article, Osborne expressed his views for the newspaper to receive five opposition letters and only one in support. The Mercury and Chronicle supported Osborne by repeatedly printing his opinions and not providing any comments. For example, if Osborne received ‘rough treatment’ he would be noted to ‘expand his reasons’. There were few credible arguments against Osborne. There was no attempt to inform the local community of Britain’s imperial role nor its contribution to immigration. This reporting as Chessum argues showed Britain’s lack of acceptance in wanting to be a multi-racial society.

There was an increased amount of attention given to South Africa and the apartheid system as a legitimate way to organise radicalized relations in the Leicester press. The apartheid was a legitimate way to organize race relations with which to compare the laissez-faire approach in Britain according to Chessum. The apartheid was seen as a solution to the colour problem. Although the Mercury did offer some opposition, such as running the quote, “ I wouldn’t call Africans present attitude to race civilized’. While shortly after they published a report of the coloured population of Leicester, which featured the colour prejudice. The most revealing piece on South Africa came on 12th May 1959, noting how “Africans have too much control”. These proceedings went against Mercury’s content as it gave a voice to the perceived threat of white society. By the 1960s, the Mercury contained articles critical of  South Africa.

By the 1960s, the criticisms in the Mercury soon developed as seen by a headline on 4th February 1960, “no illiterate can doubt British disapproval of Apartheid”. These moral sentiments starkly contrasted with the subliminal references that had been written in the 1950s. The Sharpeville massacre in March 1960, whereby police fired upon a crowd of protesters in the village of Sharpeville South Africa, however, is where  Chessum cites a  change in the way papers approached South Africa. It was no longer a respectable model for Britain. The massacre was reported rather emotionally as it was a loss to Britain, as they released South Africa couldn’t be used as a model. By the 24th March 1960, the Mercury called for South Africa to be expelled from the commonwealth, and articles that followed only secured this idea. Therefore, by the 1960s there was disillusion and bitterness, towards the Empire and apartheid. By the 1970s South Africa had lost its role in the Leicester press.

Overall, Chessum’s argument is structured and concise. Largely focused on an area that is not often discussed, Chessum clearly shows a consciousness of empire to be present in the discourse of local Leicester newspapers from the 1950s to 1970s. Chessum has a clear focus on the Leicester area and the African population as seen in her work,  “Sit Down, You Haven’t Reached that Stage Yet”: African Caribbean Children in Leicester Schools, 1960 –74.’ Therefore, Chessum is a reliable source of information and overall provides a detailed framework for which to analyse the race relations of Leicester in the mid-twentieth century.

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D. Laqua, ‘Belgian exiles, the British and the Great War: The Birtley Belgians of Elisabethville’

Laqua’s article, Belgian exiles, the British and the Great War: The Birtley Belgians of Elisabethville, is a good article for understanding Belgian and English relations during the First World War. The article’s central focus is the Belgian colony of Elisabethville in Birtley, a small self-reliant gated community, built to house predominantly conscripted Belgian soldiers unfit for service who worked in the nearby National Projectile Factory. Laqua seeks to show the idea of a complex relationship between the Belgian exiles in Elisabethville and the surrounding Birtley area, and through frequently citing historians such as Kushner and the use of primary newspapers, this is clearly articulated. Laqua further shows Elisabethville as a diasporic Belgian home front due to its blurring of boundaries between the home and battlefront.

In the beginning, there was an outpour of kindness and generosity towards the Belgians. There was great sympathy expressed towards them and their situation, so much so that in November 1914 a fundraiser was held to raise funds for the Belgian relief fund. These charitable pursuits bonded the Belgians in Britain to their homeland, the immigrant community as well as areas of captivity. Belgians provided activities to raise money for English causes as well. Charity, therefore, was a central part of the Belgians role in the war effort and it was certainly not one-way.

However, in 1916 there were visible tensions. After accusations against Belgians Private Stephenson, on the frontline, had to remind readers of the great sacrifice of Belgians. Laqua argues that this showed a multi-layered intersection between Belgium and British home fronts. Furthermore, due to the Belgian Military Authority, Belgians had to wear their uniform during their leisure time. This culminated in riots amongst the Birtley Belgians and resulted in the British military authority stepping in to relax standards, showing victimhood and heroism as debated features within the exile community.

Laqua then points to the Belgians social life in showing their interactions with the rest of the Birtley population.  Sport became an interlinking aspect as it was linked with charity, for example, the Belgian Swimming club holding a fundraiser for Belgian prisoner of war. However, these events came with hostility, with English residents noting their focus on alien policy.  To this, Laqua argues that Belgians were heavily restricted through the Aliens Restriction Act of 1914 as well as the Belgian Military Authority. Despite the restrictions, the Elisabethville Belgians did leave the community. The biggest attraction was Newcastle. Yet there were complaints regarding Belgians and English girls. The courts were involved to tackle Belgian and English relations as there were questions of Belgians causing prostitution, it is here where anti-alien attitudes arose. Yet Laqua shows that binational relationships were not impossible as records show 30% of marriages in Elisabethville to be binational. Therefore, although Elisabethville was different from other Belgian communities it still saw a great degree of intermarriage.

Concerns about Belgian socio-economic impact emerged at various intersects and Lauqa focuses his third section on this topic. The Belgians were stereotyped as lazy and dishonest by many but yet others believed Belgians to be good people. The responses were so contradictory that a local newspaper had to publish an interview with a Belgian worker to address concerns. Belgian exiles were helping Britain by doing work that was needed but yet there were calls that work was being taken from the English. Paired with the suspicion of Belgians driving down wages, it prompted W.T Kelley to write of Belgian optimism in 1917. Tensions persisted and they developed to encompass several areas from healthcare to food. It was always found, however, that these fears were unjust as Elisabethville was a self-reliant community.

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Nigel Copsey, ‘Anti-Semitism and the Jewish community of Newcastle-upon-Tyne’

Copsey’s article, Anti-Semitism and the Jewish community of Newcastle-upon-Tyne provides a clear analysis on the extent of anti-Semitism in the North East of England, particularly with emphasise on the Tyneside area.  Copsey argues that North East did not escape anti-Semitism in the 1930s and 40s, when it was seen to be most pronounced, but anti-Semitism was not completely insignificant. Therefore, Copsey takes a twofold approach, breaking down the article into the 1930s and 40s it allows him to show the development of anti-Semitism in the North East Jewry.

Copsey shows in 1934 the British Fascist Union (BUF), had notable anti-Semitic ideas and held a high membership in Tyneside. However, after opposition from the radical left, Copsey argues they were an “organisation in retreat”, with little anti-Semitic activity. It was in the summer of 1936 that fascist activity was resurrected however Newcastle never became of any significance. In this instance, Copsey emphasises the exaggerated response of the Jewish community in that the Board of Deputies of British Jews warned the Jewish community to not get involved wit fascist activity. Even though, Copsey makes evident that fascist activity in Newcastle was largely non-existent. The leaders of Tyneside Jewry did not confront the idea of fascist anti-Semitism resulting in the younger population doing so.

Copsey puts an emphasis on the exaggeration of the Jewish leaders in their response to fascist anti-Semitism such as the Representative Council for Newcastle Jewry, which formed in 1941 as a defence body.  The council ultimately held no meetings on Tyneside.  However, in the context, there was as Copsey shows an increased anti-Jewish feeling in Newcastle. With anxiety surrounding the holocaust, economic troubles and Palestine events, Copsey argues the collective psyche was transformed amongst Newcastle Jews.

Anti-Semitism were prominent in 1946 when a Jewish business boycott was ordered. By 1947 press began to get involved, with Cosey noting the local Kemsley press adopting an anti-Jew position. However, Copsey argues that such press was not as bad as it seemed and in fact on Tyneside, the press was mild.  The local Jewish newspaper played down anti-Semitic events; this was not the case for the younger generation who formed the Newcastle Anti-Defamation Group.

Copsey compares the fascist activity to London in 1946, with the creation of the 43 Group, to emphasise the little significance of Jewish organisations in Newcastle. Although the creation of the Anti-Defamation group cannot be discounted as they distributed copies of 43’s magazine. Copsey brings in the point of exaggeration again, showing even though the group were doing little that there was pressure from communal leaders to submit so as not to draw attention to the Jewish community. This did not happen and the group transformed itself into the Newcastle branch of 43 Group. Despite this Copsey shows that this transformation was only in the name. Copsey further notes, the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen which was resurrected after the war. They proved to be more popular in quelling anti-Semitic activity resulting in the Newcastle 43 to stand down.

Therefore overall, the article is well balanced, with a clear analysis of the work of Beckman and Todd as well as reference to newspaper extracts. Copsey’s argument of Newcastle never having a serious problem with anti-Semitism with only the unfavourable comments and social discrimination begin the major forms, is well written. The fact Copsey doesn’t disregard the small-scale actions of the younger community adds to the strength of the article. Further reading could include John Brewer’s, The British Union of Fascists and Anti-Semitism in Birmingham. 

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S. Manz’s, Negotiating ethnicity, class and gender: German associational culture in Glasgow 1864-1914

S. Manz’s article, Negotiating ethnicity, class and gender: German associational culture in Glasgow 1864-1914 focuses on the issue of German ethnic life in Glasgow. Manz shows that a key part of ethnic migrant communities is the network of religious and secular institutions. By using Glasgow as an example Manz goes on to emphasise that ethnic institutions in Glasgow took the form of two congregations and a numerous amount of associations.

Manz spends much of the article detailing religious institutions within the German community. Noting the first German congregation in Glasgow in 1882, a private initiative of Paster Geyer who had the aim of lifting spirits of transient migrants entering Glasgow. However, Manz argues, with reference to merchant Carl Rommele, that Geyer was catering to the working class. In turn this sets the foundation for one of Manz’s key points of intra-ethnic class consciousness. Congregations clearly had class biases and this was furthered in 1898 with the second congregation. It was noted that this was a ‘church for the rich’ which only later appealed to the working class. This class bias was further seen in the fact that the congregation was reliant on community figureheads  such as Paul Rottenberg and Joseph Kiep for financial support, which ultimately meant that these individuals had the power.

The Glasgow congregations were also seen to be making moves into topics of the day such as women’s rights and education, which made Glasgow unique. Women had no voting rights in the congregation, as the same in global congregations. The Church council tried to push that women did not need voting rights but yet Glasgow stood strong on the issue and eventually won. Manz therefore emphasises that the diaspora brought new opportunities to the German community in Glasgow unlike any other community. New opportunities that were extended to the creation of social clubs and schools alongside the church. These sought to foster German spirit and encourage the second generation to become more involved in their roots. Although as seen children were often reluctant to embrace their German side. Another important association was the German Seamen and Emigrants mission in Scotland. As part of the church the mission ensured that Pastors patrolled lodgings to watch out for the German seamen. The mission was an opportunity for the seamen and showed that transient seamen were an integral part of German ethnic life in Glasgow.

It was not just religious associations that were a part of ethnic life in Glasgow, there were also secular associations.  The Verein network was a foundation to the German social life, segregated along gender, class and religious lines. Manz focuses on the Deutcher Verein of 1864 as a meeting point for the businessmen and elite who pursued activities that were both educational and recreational. The Verein sought to present itself as a high-status immigrant group. Although this wasn’t the only social institution, the German Navy was founded in 1899 to show pride and support in German military developments.

Although Manz shows religious and secular associations to be separate, there was in fact intermingling. As of 1908 57 out of 114 of the Deutcher Verein and 10 out of 12 members of the navy club were part of the congregation. Therefore, Manz clearly emphasises the diversity of German ethnic life in Glasgow and with the aid of sources taken from pastors and club members the point is backed up.  Some further reading for the topic of Germans in Glasgow could include ‘Within our gates: A new perspective of Germans in Glasgow during the First Word War, by Ben Braber.

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S. Yarrow, ‘The impact of hostility on Germans in Britain’ 1914-1918

‘The impact of hostility on Germans in Britain 1914-18’ by S. Yarrow seeks to evaluate the effect of hostility on the German migrants in Britain in the war years of 1914 to 1918. Yarrow creates an unbiased and intriguing argument that centres on the idea of the German community not being homogenous and that this lack of cohesion meant the anti-German hostility impacted individuals in a complex way.

Firstly, arrow notes provides context by referring to hostility faced by migrants and the suffering this caused, especially for  wives of German migrants. The  lack of  husbands, due to internment, meant that wives were left vulnerable to destitution. In turn the British and German government had to take action. The Destitute Aliens Committee was therefore set up in November 1915 to provide funds to the wives of interned soldiers. Along with other associations  such as the CCUAR (Central council of United Aliens Relief), which sought to change the perception of German migrants as the enemy, Yarrow emphasises  the way in which the German community came together to support the most vulnerable during a time of need.

Yarrow goes on to show the actions of naturalised Germans, much of whom were benefactors of prominent German organisations, to articulate the point of complex reactions. Richer naturalised Germans felt it their responsibility to show the common interest of those Germans who were restricted by government initiatives but as well they still had to be loyal to Britain. These individuals, therefore, gave back to the German community as well as Britain. Baron Von Schrooler for example gave a home for the children of enemy aliens, while also giving money to war charities. The loyalty letters, as Yarrow shows, were a way that naturalised Germans showed their loyalty to Britain, as a result of the recent Lusitania attacks. It is suggested that many felt it was their duty to write the letters but it was still a risky move in showing a relationship with enemy aliens. The point Yarrow argues is that the loyalty letters and the actions of naturalised Germans are evidence that the naturalised were trying to preserve the links between themselves and the enemy aliens during hostility.

It was not only the naturalised Germans who organised themselves during hostility. Rudolf Rocket, a German writer and activist, set up a kitchen for German migrants who had lost their jobs. The CCUARS for example branched out into constituent societies. The charity work of the CCUARS in conjunction with the Home Office and police, was as according to Yarrow  coming together to provide a safety net for Germans in a time of need.

Yarrow lastly points to internment camps to finalise this complex reaction. Through the use of contemporary and modern interpretations, such as Sylvia Pankhurst, Yarrow shows that internees suffered great physical and mental side effects in the camps. Yet some suffered in better conditions. The camp divisions which formed along class, religion and professional lines emphasised the differing reactions to hostility, to segregate into communities. Although in all of these sections there was a growing sense of German nationalism. It is rather interesting how even in time of hostility many Germans showed their roots with pride, in a sense it was almost a way of proving them before they were fully destroyed. It can be argued that these camps were a representation of the German community in hostile times, the separation within mimicked that on the outside but yet there was still some sense of community left as everyone would band together to honour their German heritage.

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A. Bashford and C. Gilchrist , ‘The Colonial History of the 1905 Aliens Act’

Bashford and Gilchrist’s article, ‘The Colonial History of the 1905 Aliens Act’, is a well convincing article that fits into the course theme of government responses. Using large amounts of primary evidence, from legislation, it articulates the point that Britain during the nineteenth century was lagging behind in terms of immigrant restrictions. In comparison to the colonies and further afield such as America, Britain was more liberal with its restrictions. The authors, from this, go onto argue that the Aliens Act of 1905 was modelled off the restrictions of other countries not copied. To do this, Bashford and Gilchrist track the progress of the Aliens Act from the late nineteenth century and the massing agitation to the Royal Commission and finally to the passing of the act in 1905. The authors use a variety of scholarly material from historians such as Colin Holmes to emphasise immigration restriction as a transnational phenomenon and not as a US one.

A large portion of the article is spent detailing the Royal Commission. The authors show that much of the reports produced for the commission were based of legislation in place overseas such as Frederick Mead’s report which presented a proposal based on US laws. In relation, the authors detail the motives of the commission more of a focus on the second motive, to analyse other countries restrictions. For example, the passport control measure which was seen to be effective in Argentina in keeping Jewish immigrants out and deemed by Britain as a ‘satisfactory means of control’. In analysing restrictions, Britain was able to see what worked and what didn’t.

Even though Bashford and Gilchrist detail this process of comparison during the Royal Commission they also emphasises that although restrictions on the continent or America, for example, were similar there were still differences present. For instance, on the continent there was no law defining the class of the arrivals and so it was left up to the police to decide on the immigrant’s status. While in the US, this was placed on the shipping companies who could refuse passage.

Bashford and Gilchrist reference the problem of defining the terms within the act. It was questioned what constituted an ‘undesirable immigrant’. Fredrick Mead’s report in 1902 put forth that undesirables were people who were ‘detrimental to the community’ on the grounds of bad character, disease or offensive habits. Mead turned to the Australian and American restrictions, which prompted criminals as ‘detrimental’. Mead expanded this idea and suggested this had to be further defined by the inclusion of ‘wider categories. The commission agreed that enforcing bad character was problematic but looking to an Australian example found that using convictions since entering the country against the immigrant could be a solution. Clearly, the Royal Commission acknowledged the landing of ‘objectional characters’ (criminals) as something to be prevented and this was influenced by the fact that exclusion of convicted criminals being common in settler- colonial law. But the commission was different, according to the authors, its banishment of criminals derived from continental legal traditions, emphasising an aspect of moulding over copying.


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Bernard Aspinwall, ‘The Formation of the Catholic community in the West of Scotland: Some Preliminary Outlines’

‘The Formation of the Catholic community in the West of Scotland: Some Preliminary Outlines’ by Bernard Aspinwall is a detailed, primary material-based article that analyses how the absence of religious infrastructure in the West of Scotland was changed and in response allowed a solid framework to grow. Throughout the article, Aspinwall shows the Catholic church at the head of this framework, from education, recreational to social services, the church and its benefactors played a key role in consolidating a Catholic community in the nineteenth century.

Centring on three aspects; expansion, embellishment and architectural achievements, the article tracks the progress of this catholic infrastructure. The church, at the head, through various programmes such as Sunday schools to professional lectures allowed the community to grow in knowledge and faith. In addition, the church provided job and social opportunities for example shop keeping which, as Aspinwall argues, allowed spirituality to be sold. Expansion can be seen in the clergy. Aspinwall mentions numerous clergy that preached in Catholic communities or who were crucial to the development of the catholic community such as Charles Eyre, the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow. New orders such as the Jesuits helped reform and keep the values of the church alive. Benefactors helped embellish the church with the gifting of land, altars or organs which suggested a communal pride in the church. Embellishment then turned to architecture as churches got bigger and more prominent within society and thus a community was consolidated.

Aspinwall article is generally clear however he mentions the word landau several times which is a coachbuilding term for a carriage.

A large number of primary sources are used, with Aspinwall relying heavily on the Scottish Catholic Directory, a catholic database, for much of his material. Archival material, from the Jesuit Archives to the Rosminians archives, in the form of letters, correspondences and diaries are also referenced in excess. However, Aspinwall frequently refences Catholic newspapers such as the Tablet. Newspapers tend to be bias, towards one particular side and with Aspinwall using only catholic newspapers, the result is no perspective from non-Catholic communities.

There are frequent citing of James Handley’s work, a published historian on the Irish, as well as Emmet Larkin and Stewart Meckie, both published historians on Scotland and the Irish Catholic community. Although, other works such as Thomas Fitzpatrick’s, ‘Catholic Education in Glasgow, Lanarkshire and South-West Scotland before 1872′[1]or Anthony Ross’s, ‘The Development of the Scottish Catholic Community 1878-1978′[2]ould have been useful material in aiding the argument.

The article fits into the topic for session two of Irish immigration in the nineteenth century by detailing the ways in which the Catholic church created a catholic community most of whom were Irish immigrants. The Irish in response found their own identity within Scotland, perhaps to the dislike of Scottish society, which addresses one of the themes of the course.


[1] The Innes Review, Volume 29 Issue 2, Page 111-139, 2010

[2] The Innes Review, Volume 29 Issue 1, Page 30-55, 2010