Justin's posts

Aviva Ben-Ur, ‘Identity Imperative: Ottoman Jews in Wartime and Interwar Britain’

‘Identity Imperative: Ottoman Jews in Wartime and Interwar Britain’ by Aviva Ben-Ur analyses Sephardic Jewish groups of immigrants that came from places from the Ottoman Empire such as Baghdad, Damascus, Istanbul, and Jerusalem. He does this by analysing their personal experiences throughout the 20th century. This is because the author believes that these groups are widely ignored due to the mass Jewish immigration from Europe. It also focuses on how local British governments moulded and assessed their complicated national status. The articles focus is on how these Jewish groups attempted to gain naturalisation in Britain despite being considered as enemy aliens when WW1 had broken out.

Some of these groups regarded as enemy aliens included Syrian, Jews and Greeks and were typically deported, interned, stripped of their freedom of movement, and barred from becoming naturalised British citizens. This was laid out further in the British Nationality and Status of Alien Act at the end of WW1 which prevented naturalisation for a 10-year period unless they met specific requirements like serving in the armed forces. This article focuses on the group of immigrants that came from the Ottoman Empire, who began arriving in Britain in the early 1900s. The author notes that these immigrants had helped repopulate dwindling Jewish communities which were already established in Britain decades before.

The immigrants were predominately male with 36% being born in Istanbul. Their occupations were mainly merchants or shippers of ‘oriental’ carpets, antiques, and fancy goods. Many of these Ottoman natives were reluctant to claim that is where they came from, however. This resulted in many to claim to be ‘Spanish Jews’. This was so the legislation after the war would not apply to them and make naturalisation easier as they were unlikely to get it if they were of Ottoman descent. However, this was not always the case as a Chief Rabbi would be expected to attest for the person claiming to be a member of the Sephardic Jews. Max Solomon Haim was the first to set the precedent to these applications during WW1 and helped dozens more Ottomans become British citizens. This was because Ottomans could legally be classified as ‘Spanish Jews’.

The article then mentions the xenophobia many of the Ottomans faced and how despite this they were still eager to remain in Britain. The author gives several examples of why attaining a British citizenship was important for reasons such as it made getting a job easier, renting easier, and traveling around Europe easier. It is stated however, that German-Jews had the highest number of enemy aliens by a 5 to 1 ratio. 10% of Ottomans were put in internment camps. The author notes that the governments anti-Jewish and anti-foreigner rhetoric may have been the main motivation in either postponing or rejecting the Ottomans naturalisation cases. Many of these Ottomans who were discriminated against claimed adoration of Britain with many showing British patriotism and as well as appreciation for its education system and laws.

Gemma's posts

Kamal A. Chunchie of the Coloured Men’s Institute: The man and the legend by Rozina Visram

This article by Rozina Visram provides an insight into the work of Pastor Kamal A. Chunchie and his work and support for the black and Asian community in East End London. With particular focus on the Coloured Men’s Institute (CMI), Visram outlines how Chunchie struggled for almost 30 years to improve the lives of these individuals through social welfare and Christian fellowship.

Kamal Chunchie was born in Kandy, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1886 and at an early age showed an interest in Christianity. In 1915 he came to Europe and enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion, 3rd Middlesex Regiment to serve on the Western front. After converting to Christianity, Chunchie came to Britain in 1918 where he married a Welsh woman who became a fellow supporter of his work for the black and Asian population of the East End.

Visram discusses the situation soldiers found themselves in Britain after being discharged. They were given no employment opportunities or financial support and were expected to survive on their own. This therefore led to many being stranded and jobless in a difficult 1920s economy and as a result, were faced with severe levels of poverty whilst also facing racial discrimination. Chunchie faced discrimination and racism after the war and Visram highlights how this moulded his philosophy and work which turned him into an outspoken champion on behalf of the black and Asian people of the East End of London.

He started off by visiting lodgings, slums and hospitals in search of black and Asian soldiers he could help. To these individuals, he gave material assistance. For instance, Visram highlights one African sailor who was discharged in Cardiff but robbed of all his possessions and Chunchie provided him with clothing, a bed and other necessities. Soon Chunchie came across the resident black and Asian population who were living in poverty. They lived in overcrowded housing and with the men being married to white women, the mixed-race children of this community also faced discrimination at school and further lack of support and opportunity when they left. The welfare of this community therefore became Chunchie’s priority whilst he denounced racism which impacted these people’s lives in Christian England.

In 1926, Chunchie established the Coloured Men’s Institute with the aim of meeting the needs of both the soldiers and the resident community and it would serve as a recreational and social centre for them as well as a place of worship. Visram argues that the extent to which these individuals received welfare shows the desperate condition their lives were in.

He travelled all over Britain addressing crowds and exposing the hypocrisy of Christian England where black and Asian peoples were discriminated against, whilst the missionary messages ‘back home’ in their own countries with the aim to convert the native populations in colonised countries to Christianity, painted a very different picture of life in Christian England.

Visram points out how Chunchie faced a significant amount of critic. One being that he was accused of being a ‘showman’ by Rev. F.W. Chudleigh. Further, his conversion to Christianity was questioned by Rev. W.J. Noble who accused him of playing ‘football’ with the Bible as a schoolboy. Visram argues that the first accusation was an example of professional jealousy and the latter, an exaggeration since Christians were respected as people of the book by Muslims and the Bible would not have been treated in such a way. Therefore, Visram identities that this represents Chunchie’s conversion to Christianity as being even more significant.

After further accusations regarding finances, such as being too generous and incapable of managing money, Chunchie parted from the organisation in 1932. He branched out on his own to continue his work to create a ‘better confidence and spirit of brotherhood’ between the black and white population. Between 1933 and his death in 1953, he worked hard to establish a new Coloured Men’s Institute. Through this, he set up a multiracial council and the organisation delt with stranded sailors who were given bed and breakfast. Families were also offered clothes, coal, boots and shoes throughout the year as the material conditions they lived in through a depression-hit Britain was reflected in the ill-health they suffered.

The racial hostility these families faced was widespread and Nancie Sharpe wrote a 40,000-word report on ‘The Negro Population in London and Cardiff’ in the mid-1930s. She concluded that ‘The whole economic situation of those families is an indictment of the society in which we live.’

Visram concludes that without the work of Chunchie and the CMI, the lives of the black and Asian community in the East End would have been bleaker. Further, she praises Chunchie’s humanity and generosity as he was passionate and worked so hard to improve the lives of these individuals and combat racism- whilst never losing his identity which is reflected in his reports where his Malay origin is always identified as well as his love for Sri Lanka.


Christy's posts

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.

Siobhan's posts

Herbert E Roese “Cardiff’s Norwegian Heritage A Reflected Theme”

This particular source focuses on Norwegian’s settling within Cardiff between the late 19th and 20th centuries. The Historian introduces the source by describing that within the 19th century Cardiff had been one of Britain’s three major ports besides London and Liverpool. This historian continues this argument by describing how Cardiff became the major coal exporting port in the region, however, harbour such as Newport, Penarth and Barry were affected or conceived as a result of the operations of the Cardiff docks. The writer also establishes throughout this source that Timber was a valuable source throughout Norway as it dominated the trade with the increase in the building of wooden-hulled ships. It was established by Roese that Norway had little else to export other than timber however between the years 1849-1850, classification, insurance and better ship design soon came the key to trading abroad. The author then furthers this argument by describing that railway rails and oil bulk were also transported by Norwegian ships towards the end of the 19th century.

The importance of Swansea is also highlighted throughout this source as the author establishes that only Swansea had its own Norwegian Church (which still stands along the A483) throughout this period. The author also then established that this church was originally elected in Newport but when the towns dock declined due to the superiority of Cardiff’s transport symptom and port system facilities the church was therefore moved to Swansea. The importance of Swansea is then highlighted again by Roese explaining that Swansea created a manufacturing base (the copper works) in conjunction with the docks to which he argues Cardiff failed to do so. The ‘Norwegian mission to Seaport’ was also mentioned throughout this source as the historian established that this had found the greatest need for its services in the second half of the 19th century in four main European ports which included Leith, Newcastle, Antwerp and Cardiff.

The author then established the significance of the coal industry, as he argues that the Cardiff docks could barely keep pace with the coal supplies from the coast fields on the one hand, and the demand for docking and wharf space from shipping agents on the other hands. It was also further argued that within 1913 coal employed 5 million tons of tramp shipping, of which 3 million tons were British. Those 2 million tons of non-British tramp shipping were largely provided by the Norwegian carrier fleet. The significance of Norwegians throughout Cardiff was also established by the historian as he highlighted those small businesses were created which included: Provisioning, crewing, inspecting, engineering, repair, surveying and insurance. Besides this the author further established that although many sailors and captains chose these business communities, others took up non-shipping related occupations such as coal mining, house-keeping, working within cafés and boarding house management. There were three peak periods of these Norwegian occupations throughout Cardiff which are known to be within 1920, again in 1950 and again further by 1989. As well as this, the author also demonstrates that Norwegian heritage existed throughout Wales as he demonstrates this through establishing that a wide range of names throughout Cardiff came from Scandinavian (in particular coming from Norway). This argument was therefore furthered through the Roese establishing that that some surnames reflect a geographical context which came from Norway, one example of this that he uses to illustrate this was from the children’s author Royal Dahl.

Overall the historian H.E Roese established that there was a strong Norwegian presence throughout Wales Cardiff in particular as this was the main seaport in the kingdom. He concluded this source by establishing that the Norwegian presence in 19th century Cardiff can be regarded as “something of spectacular similar, earlier events although on a larger scale”.

Oliwia's posts

‘Middlesbrough’s “Forgotten Japanese”: the Japanese Community in Middlesbrough during the inter-way years’ by Marie Conte-Helm

The focus of this blog post is an article titled ‘Middlesbrough’s “Forgotten Japanese”: the Japanese Community in Middlesbrough during the inter-war period’ by Marie Conte-Helm.


The article is well structured and has an aim of investigating the context of the history of Japanese emigration and the North-East past and present associations with Japan. The article is very detailed and presents the reader with an overview of the motivations behind Japanese emigration, as well as their reasons behind the migrants’ settlement in Middlesbrough.


In terms of history, the article explains that Japanese migration to Britain was a result of Japanese investment which brought over companies and families. The people involved in this movement where often short-term migrants and typically stayed for a period of up to 5 years before returning home. The first documented Japanese visitors are said to have been in Newcastle in 1862, however it wasn’t until the Meiji government overturned the Isolationist policies in 1868 that movements of Japanese nationals became more frequent. The article argues that the emigration of Japanese nationals was a result of industrialisation as it led to an increase of land taxes – therefore forcing farmers off their land. Between the years of 1880-1893 367,000 Japanese farmers faced this situation.

The article also states that the Meiji government also played a significant role in the process of emigration as it not only encouraged people to travel overseas, but also played an active part in overseas contract labour business between the years of 1885-1894, and although the rate of emigration did not peak until 1902-1904, this encouragement was essential in laying the foundation for future emigration.


In terms of attraction to the North-East, the Rivers Tyne, Tees and Wear contributed majorly to Japanese commercial shipping, later also the development of passenger ships. The most relevant example being the European Line Service which made Middlesbrough their port of re-fuelling and loading, therefore allowing passengers to depart there. Between 1896-1902 the article states 29,777 passengers were transported from Japan to Europe via this service. Also, for the Japanese sailors, the article argues, Middlesbrough was their home away from home.


The article also states that the most significant wave of Japanese incomers – in the context of Middlesbrough – took place in the second decade of the 20th century and by 1920, approximately 250 Japanese nationals were living there. The article also conveys that the Japanese community within Middlesbrough was very tight-knit as it was vastly concentrated in the Marton Road area. The article also notes that the Japanese community seemed to be generally accepted by the host community and their treatment was considerably better than that of the Italian migration, for example.


The article uses a lot statistical evidence to illustrate the extent of the importance of the Japanese community and also contains pictures of some of the members of the community.