ŮÚū. 3
(‚ŮŚ„Ó 12)



184118 289,404 39,244 15,914,148
103,238 1,088
185119 61,708
519,959 130,087 33,688 17,927,609
169,202 101,832 20,066,224
1861 601,634 51,572
1871 566,540 213,254 139,445 22,712,266
562,374 253,528 94,399 25,974,439
1881 174,372
282,271 233,008 111,627 29,002,525
1891 458,315
426,565 316,838 339,436 136,092 32,527,843
1911 375,325 321,825 373,516 161,502 36,070,492
1921 364,747 333,517 328,641 204,466 37,886,699
1931 381,089 366,486 307,570 225,684 39,952,377

Unfortunately, birthplace data tell us nothing about racial assignment,
perhaps reÔ¬‚ecting its limited salience, much less cultural practices. Yet
they do reveal most groups grew steadily, jibing ill with the discontinuous
record of xenophobic outbursts and suggesting we must look elsewhere
for the causes of conÔ¬‚ict. While the Irish dwarfed others at mid-century,
the gap later narrowed substantially: Irish population peaked in 1861,
thereafter diminishing steadily, by over 30% between 1871 and 1881 and
again by 104,059 or 18.5% between 1881 and 1891.20 Others burgeoned
1871‚Ä“81, Scots by 26%, foreigners by 25% and colonial subjects ‚Ä“ ‚Ęrace‚Ä™
unspeciÔ¬Āed ‚Ä“ by fully one-third, 33%. Between 1871 and 1881 Europeans
increased by 9.8%, Asians by 34.4%.21
If sheer numbers explained the construction of Britain‚Ä™s ‚Ęothers‚Ä™, we
might expect to see anti-Irish hostility ebbing after 1861 at the expense of
Scots, foreigners and colonials. Indeed, between 1881 and 1891 the pro-
portion of the population born in England and Wales increased, from
957/1,000 in 1881 to 961/1,000 in 1891, which, if numbers were critical,
should have reduced xenophobia. The ‚Ęforeign-born element‚Ä™, dismissed
in 1891 as ‚Ęnumerically insigniÔ¬Ācant . . . much smaller than is commonly
supposed‚Ä™,22 shortly became the object of a vicious campaign culminating

1841 Census Enumeration Abstract I pp1843 (496) XXII, 459; 1931 Preliminary Census Report: Tables

(London, 1931), III, Table I, 1.
1931 General Census Report (London, 1950), Table LXX ‚ĘBirthplaces of the Population . . .

1851‚Ä“1931‚Ä™, 169.
1891 Census Report: pp1893‚Ä“4 (C. 7058) CVI, 61‚Ä“2.

1881 General Census Report IV pp1883 (3797) LXXX, 52‚Ä“5.

1891 Census Report, 60, 64, 65.
A homogeneous society? Britain‚Ä™s internal ‚Ęothers‚Ä™, 1800‚Ä“present 59
in the Aliens Act 1905. These apparently inexplicable patterns of conÔ¬‚ict
or its absence may be illuminated by the historical context of British and
European empire building.

empire building created internal others
Reconstructing the history of Britain‚Ä™s internal ‚Ęothers‚Ä™ demands attention
to global and local contexts drawing migrants to Britain, rendering some
rather than others threatening to or exploitable by institutional actors or
ordinary Britons. Focus on the Irish, Jews and colonised people, for
example, arguably reÔ¬‚ects their historical visibility in repeated crises of
empire building, British, European and beyond, as well as racism‪s
inextricability from imperial processes.
Premising explanations for racism on visceral ‚Ęwhite‚Ä™ responses to
‚Ędifference‚Ä™ risks naturalising race, placing it beyond historical analysis.23
Colonialism ‚Ęmade‚Ä™ ‚Ęrace‚Ä™ in the British context, remaining inseparable
from it. Discourses of racial inferiority developed as ideological justiÔ¬Āca-
tions for European domination and privilege.24 Absent power relations,
physical appearance or cultural practices remain value-free: given the
ongoing struggles colonisation provoked, such differences visibly marked
the boundaries of power and privilege. Colonised people including the
Irish became visible when they challenged their position within the
imperial system to demand a fair share of the resources their labour
produced. Resistance often involved moving physically: migrating, Ô¬‚eeing,
escaping; shifting to more visible positions in the social as well as geo-
graphical landscape, perhaps encroaching on colonisers‚Ä™ prerogatives. In
particular, many refused the role of cheap or enslaved labour by migrating
to Britain. Racism against recent migrants remains inseparable from
continuing efforts to perpetuate their relegation within the neo-imperial

Peter Kolchin argues ‚Ęwhiteness‚Ä™, even in the more rigid US context, has proven ‚Ęoverworked‚Ä™,
‚ĘWhiteness Studies: The New History of Race in America‚Ä™, Journal of American History, 89 (1)
(2003), 154‚Ä“73. If an imperfect Ô¬Āt with the British case, Barbara Jeanne Fields‚Ä™ ‚ĘOf Rogues and
Geldings‚Ä™, American Historical Review, 108 (2003), 1397‚Ä“405, offers a bracing antidote to muddled
thinking. Also see Thomas C. Holt, ‚Ę ‚Ę‚ĘAn Empire Over the Mind‚Ä™‚Ä™: Emancipation, Race, and
Ideology in the British West Indies and the American South‚Ä™, in J. Morgan Kousser and James
M. McPherson (eds.), Region, Race and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C. Vann Woodward
(New York, 1982), esp. 303, 307, 313 fn. 47.
Barbara Jeanne Fields, ‚ĘSlavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America‚Ä™, New Left
Review, 181 (1990), 95‚Ä“118; Stuart Hall, ‚ĘConclusion: The Multi-Cultural Question‚Ä™, in Barnor
Hesse (ed.), Un/Settled Multiculturalisms: Diaspora, Entanglements, ‚ĘTransruptions‚Ä™ (London, 2000),
world system.25 Its amelioration awaits dismantling inequities within
Britain and globally.
Recognising imperial and racial processes as inseparable from and
constitutive of domestic society and history, including that of ‚Ęinternal
others‚Ä™,26 prompts questions about similar circulation of people, artefacts
and cultural practices between Britain and outside the Empire, speciÔ¬Ācally
the European Continent, with which Britain has shared a long history.
Britain‪s ongoing repeopling drew migrants from Europe and indeed
elsewhere in the British Isles: colonial subjects formed but part of a
continually emigrating and immigrating population.27 Incorporating
Continental migration into analyses of ongoing empire building permits
integrated reinterpretation of apparently disconnected processes.
Arguably, episodes of xenophobic conÔ¬‚ict reÔ¬‚ected the rhythms of
British and European competition for empire. Although Continental
empire building lies outside the purview of this volume as a whole, it
proves indispensable in understanding the periodic pulses of European
migrants that crosscut circulation between colonies and metropole.28
Colonised and Continental migrants arrived in Britain in the process of
intense competition for empire among the major states of Europe, cul-
minating in two sanguinary world wars. While Britain, France and other
industrialising nations expanded beyond Europe, wars of conquest and
redivision redrew boundaries on the Continent. The eighteenth-century
partition of Poland erased the ancient kingdom to feed the territorial

Clive Harris and Gail Lewis found post-1945 black migrants Ô¬Ālled jobs native workers evacuated in
the least stable and proÔ¬Ātable sectors. ‚ĘPostwar Migration and the Industrial Reserve Army‚Ä™, and
‚ĘBlack Women‚Ä™s Employment and the British Economy‚Ä™, in Winston James and Clive Harris
(eds.), Inside Babylon: The Caribbean Diaspora in Britain (London, 1993), 9‚Ä“54, 73‚Ä“96.
Catherine Hall, ‚ĘGender Politics and Imperial Politics: Rethinking the Histories of Empire‚Ä™, in
Verene Shepherd, Bridget Brereton and Barbara Bailey (eds.), Engendering History: Caribbean
Women in Historical Perspective (New York, 1995), 49.
Arthur Redford, Labour Migration in England, 1800‚Ä“1850 ((1964) Manchester, 1978), 165; Leslie

Page Moch, Moving Europeans: Migration in Western Europe since 1650 (Bloomington, 1992), 103;
P. J. Lees, B. Piatek and I. Curyllo-Klag (eds. and intro.), The British Migrant Experience,
1700‚Ä“2000: An Anthology (London, 2002).
On nation building in southern Europe, see Gerard Noiriel, The French Melting Pot: Immigration,
Citizenship, and National Identity (Minneapolis, 1996); Donna Rae Gabaccia, Militants and
Migrants: Rural Sicilians Become American Workers (New Brunswick, NJ, 1988); Rogers Brubaker,
Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany (Cambridge, MA, 1992); Vicki Caron, Between
France and Germany: The Jews of Alsace-Lorraine, 1871‚Ä“1918 (Palo Alto, 1988); and on the massive
eastward movement of Russians into Central Asia and Siberia in the same period, Ewa Morawska
and Willfried Spohn, ‚ĘMoving Europeans in the Globalizing World: Contemporary Migrations in
a Historical-Comparative Perspective (1855‚Ä“1994 v. 1870‚Ä“1914)‚Ä™, in Wang Gungwu (ed.), Global
History and Migrations (Boulder, CO, 1997), 52 fn. 4.
A homogeneous society? Britain‚Ä™s internal ‚Ęothers‚Ä™, 1800‚Ä“present 61
aspirations of Prussia, the Romanov Empire and Austria.29 During the
Napoleonic Wars, Russia seized Finland from Sweden, and Sweden
annexed Norway at Denmark‪s expense.30 Between 1864 and 1871 the
German Empire took shape at the expense of Denmark, Austria-Hungary
and France, incorporating neighbouring states, through conquest and
coercion, under Prussian domination.31
Pursued in the name of national unity but achieved through force,
Continental empire building mirrored the violent processes simulta-
neously expanding the overseas empires of Britain, France, Italy and
Belgium, and indeed the Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch before them.32
State-sponsored nation building exhibited imperialistic disregard for
indigenous institutions and loyalties.33 As Italy and Germany took
shape through warfare, German language and culture were imposed, if
imperfectly, in the Habsburg lands and later Prussia, followed by
RussiÔ¬Ācation campaigns in the Romanov Empire and TurkiÔ¬Ācation in the
Nominally dynastic projects, Russian and German empire building,
like that of other European powers, remained inextricable from the drive
to industrialise.35 Hegemonic nation building, integral to economic
and political modernisation, created outsiders as well as insiders,
Hubert Izdebski, ‚ĘGovernment and Self-Government in Partitioned Poland‚Ä™, in Michael Branch,
Janet Hartley and Antoni Maczak (eds.), Finland and Poland in the Russian Empire (London,
1995), 77‚Ä“89; Edward Thaden, Russia‚Ä™s Western Borderland 1710‚Ä“1870 (Princeton, 1984), vii‚Ä“viii.
Finland changed hands formally in 1808 by the Treaty of Tilsit. Osmo Jussila, ‚ĘHow Did Finland
Come under Russian Rule?‚Ä™, in Branch, Hartley and Maczak (eds.), Finland and Poland in the
Russian Empire, 61. By the Treaty of Kiel in 1813 Norway was taken from Denmark and annexed
by Sweden. Frank H. Aarebrot, ‚ĘNorway: Centre and Periphery in a Peripheral State‚Ä™, in Derek W.
Urwin and Stein Rokkan (eds.), The Politics of Territorial Identity: Studies in European Regionalism
(Beverly Hills, 1982), 85‚Ä“6, 90.
Gordon A. Craig, Germany 1866‚Ä“1945 (Oxford, 1978), 1‚Ä“37; Derek W. Urwin, ‚ĘGermany: From

Geographical Expression to Regional Accommodation‚Ä™, in Urwin and Rokkan (eds.), The Politics
of Territorial Identity, 175‚Ä“9.
‚ĘThe Russian Empire evolved in ways that are comparable to those of other Western empires‚Ä™.
Daniel Brower and Edward J. Lazzerini (eds.), Russia‪s Orients: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples,
1700‚Ä“1917 (Bloomington, 1997), xix.
J. E. O. Screen, ‚ĘThe Military Relationship between Finland and Russia, 1809‚Ä“1917‚Ä™, in Branch,
Hartley and Maczak (eds.), Finland and Poland in the Russian Empire, 259‚Ä“70, and several other
essays in this volume, especially Vytautas Merkys, ‚ĘThe Lithuanian National Movement: The
Problems of Polonization and RussiÔ¬Ācation‚Ä™, 271‚Ä“82.
Merkys, ‚ĘThe Lithuanian National Movement‚Ä™, 274‚Ä“9; Izdebski, ‚ĘPartitioned Poland‚Ä™, 81; Tuomo
Polvinen, Imperial Borderland: Bobrikov and the Attempted RussiÔ¬Ācation of Finland, 1898‚Ä“1904,
trans. Steven Huxley (London, 1995), 18, 271‚Ä“2 and passim; Thaden, Russia‚Ä™s Western Borderland,
126, 142, 178‚Ä“99, 231‚Ä“3.
Lenin made this connection clear in his much maligned but apparently seldom read Imperialism:
the Highest Stage of Capitalism ((1917) New York, 1939); also see Urwin, ‚ĘFrom Geographical
Expression to Regional Accommodation‚Ä™, 179; Polvinen, Imperial Borderland, 6, 9.
proletarianising artisans and displacing petty gentry, peasants, teachers,
clergy and intellectuals.36 Simultaneously, in spite of or perhaps because
of nineteenth-century ‚Ęemancipation‚Ä™, Europe‚Ä™s Jews faced renewed per-
secution.37 Large portions of the non-European world came under British
formal and informal domination in the same years, rendering Britain‪s
growing non-European population too an effect of empire building.
These economic and political destabilisations and rearrangements expel-
led diverse populations into the global labour market, stimulating
unprecedented migration, yielding sixty to seventy million transatlantic
‚Ęcomings and goings‚Ä™ between 1850 and 1925 alone.38 Hundreds of
thousands migrated to Britain. Their history embodies tension between
acknowledged contributions to the making of British society and a
painful history of often violent ‚Ęothering‚Ä™.
Present in Britain for centuries, Germans and Jews became threatening
in this context of heightened competition between Britain and its global
rivals. Germans, until 1891 the largest Continental migrant group, arrived
in Britain due to Prussian empire building which simultaneously dis-
placed, dispossessed and excluded while coercively incorporating
unwilling territories and peoples.39 Jews likewise Ô¬‚ed Czarist pogroms
stimulated by Russian nation building and empire building, outstripping
Germans in number by the early twentieth century.40 Alarm greeting
their arrival not only reÔ¬‚ected Britain‚Ä™s resumed drive for empire but its
underlying stimulus ‚Ä“ vulnerability to Germany and other imperial and
industrial rivals expressed in renewed anxiety about the ‚Ęcondition of
England‚Ä™: Sidney Webb feared the ‚Ęcountry would gradually fall to the
Irish and Jews‚Ä™.41
Theodore Hamerow, Restoration, Revolution, Reaction: Economics and Politics in Germany,
1815‚Ä“1871 (Princeton, 1958), 14‚Ä“15, 246‚Ä“8, 252‚Ä“3, 255; Morawska and Spohn characterise these
developments as the incorporation of Eastern Europe into the Atlantic world-system, in ‚ĘMoving
Europeans in the Globalizing World‚Ä™, 52 fn.4; and see Risto Alapuro, ‚ĘFinland: An Interface
Periphery‚Ä™, in Rokkan and Urwin, The Politics of Territorial Identity, 113‚Ä“64, esp. 120, 115‚Ä“16;
Merkys, ‚ĘLithuanian National Movement‚Ä™, 274, 278‚Ä“9; Thaden, Russia‚Ä™s Western Borderland,
141‚Ä“2, 170, 193, 198‚Ä“9, 213‚Ä“14, 240. On similar processes in Ireland, see Roger Swift, Irish Migrants
in Britain 1815‚Ä“1914, (Cork, 2002), 4‚Ä“6.
Feldman, Englishmen and Jews, esp. 2‚Ä“3, 148‚Ä“53.
Zolberg, ‚ĘInternational Migration Policies‚Ä™, 266, 269. Morawska and Spohn, ‚ĘMoving Europeans
in the Globalizing World‚Ä™, 52 fn.4; also see Aristide Zolberg, ‚ĘGlobal Movements, Global Walls:
Responses to Migration, 1855‚Ä“1925‚Ä™, in Wang (ed.), Global History and Migrations, 279‚Ä“307;
Eric R. Wolf, Europe and the People Without History (Berkeley, 1982).
Holmes, ‚ĘHistorians and Immigration‚Ä™, 166.
W. J. Fishman, Jewish Radicals: From Tsarist Stetl to London Ghetto (New York, 1974).
Feldman, Englishmen and Jews, 268, 275, 279; Anna Davin, ‚ĘImperialism and Motherhood‚Ä™, History
Workshop Journal, 5 (1978), 9‚Ä“66. The quote from Webb is found on p. 23. Colin Holmes, John
Bull‚Ä™s Island: Immigration and British Society, 1871‚Ä“1971 (Basingstoke, 1988), 62‚Ä“4, 69.
A homogeneous society? Britain‚Ä™s internal ‚Ęothers‚Ä™, 1800‚Ä“present 63

migration, othering and empire
Despite dire titles such as John Bull‪s Island and Bloody Foreigners, his-
torians agree that migrants‚Ä™ experiences remained mixed and contingent:
episodes of intense ‚Ęothering‚Ä™, discrimination and violence remaining
better documented than everyday coexistence or conÔ¬‚ict.42 ‚ĘOthering‚Ä™
representations lead us to expect rigid social barriers between native
Britons and overseas migrants, yet historical investigation reveals practice
remained Ô¬‚uid, indeterminate and contested, perhaps most visibly
reÔ¬‚ected in ongoing exogamy, anathema to nationalists, racists and
Irish migration proves paradigmatic in the responses it met and the
fallacies its well-developed scholarship debunks. Irish seasonal migrants
had long sojourned in Britain, some 60,000‚Ä“100,000 in the 1860s, but
moral panic heightened in the late 1840s against the ‚Ęlow Irish‚Ä™, prole-
tarianised smallholders and cotters Ô¬‚eeing Famine. Between 1851 and 1921
one-quarter of Irish emigrants went to Britain, amounting to 3.5% of
Britain‚Ä™s population and 8.8% of the labour force in 1861. Yet conÔ¬‚ict and
‚Ęothering‚Ä™ proved neither inevitable nor universal. In the 1820s, English
radicals, demanding reform in Ireland, diffused competition from Irish
migrant labourers by incorporating them.44
Racial language developed for use against the Irish provided nineteenth-
century literati with a ‚Ęvocabulary‚Ä™ expressing religious, class and political
anxieties and justifying imperial subordination.45 Anglo-Saxonist racial
doctrine attributed British superiority to the mixture of Germanic stock
ending in AD 449, yielding a ‚Ęgenetic preference for individual liberty and

Holmes, John Bull‚Ä™s Island, 56‚Ä“7, 65, 84, 294‚Ä“5 and passim; Robert Winder, Bloody Foreigners: The
Story of Immigration to Britain (London, 2004), 4‚Ä“5.
Maria Lin Wong, Chinese Liverpudlians: A History of the Chinese Community in Liverpool
(Liverpool, 1989), 38‚Ä“9, 66‚Ä“75; Richard Lawless, From Ta‚Ä™izz to Tyneside: An Arab Community in
the North-East of England During the Early Twentieth Century (Exeter, 1995), 174‚Ä“206; Laura
Tabili, ‚ĘOutsiders in the Land of Their Birth: Exogamy, Citizenship, and Identity in War and
Peace‚Ä™, Journal of British Studies, 44 (2005), 796‚Ä“815; on the painful ambiguities of interracial
families, see Gail Lewis, ‚ĘFrom Deepest Kilburn‚Ä™, in Liz Heron (ed.), Truth, Dare, or Promise: Girls
Growing Up in the Fifties (London, 1985), 213‚Ä“36; Caroline Bressey, ‚ĘForgotten Histories: Three
Stories of Black Girls from Barnardo‪s Victorian Archive‪, Women‪s History Review, 11 (3) (2002),
351‚Ä“74. Thanks to Daniel Gray for this reference.
Swift, Irish Migrants in Britain, xix, xxii, 3‚Ä“6, 8‚Ä“9, 27, 29, 51‚Ä“2, 73, 77, 151‚Ä“2; John Belchem,
‚ĘEnglish Working Class Radicals and the Irish 1815‚Ä“50‚Ä™, in Roger Swift and Sheridan Gilley (eds.),
The Irish in the Victorian City (London, 1985), 87‚Ä“8.
M. A. G. O‚Ä™Tuathaigh, ‚ĘThe Irish in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Problems of Integration‚Ä™, 21,
and Tom Gallagher, ‚ĘA Tale of Two Cities: Communal Strife in Glasgow and Liverpool Before
1914‚Ä™, 120, both in Swift and Gilley (eds.), Irish in the Victorian City.
the rule of law‚Ä™.46 Fears of ‚Ęfeckless, stupid, violent, unreliable, and
drunken‚Ä™ Irish outbreeding natives, augmenting the indigenous ‚Ędanger-
ous classes‚Ä™ and producing ‚Ęracial deterioration‚Ä™, exacerbated the ‚Ęcondi-
tion of England‚Ä™ question preoccupying British elites.47 Despite relative
diminution of overseas migration and the absolute diminution of Irish
migrants, Anglo-Saxonism, Social Darwinism and other racisms intensi-
Ô¬Āed rather than abated due to ongoing and occasionally violent nationalist
agitation explicitly challenging ‚ĘBritish domination‚Ä™ as ‚Ęthe root of
Ireland‪s problems‪.48 Thus, neither sheer numbers nor labour market
competition fomented visceral conÔ¬‚ict; rather it was fomented by political
relations and elite manipulation indivisible from imperial and class
agendas to ‚Ędivide and govern‚Ä™.49
Contradictorily, nineteenth-century political borders crosscut the geo-
graphical and occupational mobility of an unprecedentedly global working
class. States pursuing imperial and industrial advantage increasingly
mobilised invented traditions and histories to differentiate between inter-
nal and transborder migrants, constraining the latter through legislation
and other coercion.50 Britain ‚Ęled‚Ä™ industrial states in restricting eastern and
southern European immigration legally, responding to a xenophobic and
anti-Semitic campaign by promulgating the Aliens Act 1905.51

jews and the condition of england
Spurred by Czarist pogroms in 1881 and 1903, enhanced Jewish migration
coincided with the late nineteenth-century crisis of the ‚Ęsecond‚Ä™ British
Empire, exacerbating alarm about the ‚Ęcondition of England‚Ä™. Increasing

The quote is from Richard Cosgrove, Our Lady the Common Law: An Anglo-American Legal
Community, 1870‚Ä“1930 (New York, 1987), 70; also see 59‚Ä“65, 70‚Ä“7. For Macaulay‚Ä™s alternative
chronology, see Catherine Hall‪s essay in this volume.
Swift, Irish Migrants in Britain, xix, xxii, 4‚Ä“6, 8‚Ä“9, 29, 51, 73, 77; quote is from Sheridan and
Gilley (eds.), Irish in the Victorian City, 5.
Quote is from Swift, Irish Migrants in Britain, 4: also see xxii, 4‚Ä“6, 80, 118‚Ä“20, 149, 174; Belchem,
‚ĘEnglish Working Class Radicals‚Ä™, 85‚Ä“105; Gallagher, ‚ĘA Tale of Two Cities‚Ä™, 109‚Ä“10, 112, 116, 122
and passim.
Quote is from Belchem, ‚ĘEnglish Working Class Radicals‚Ä™, 94, but this theme infuses Sheridan
and Gilley (eds.), Irish in the Victorian City.
Morawska and Spohn, ‚ĘMoving Europeans in the Globalizing World‚Ä™, 25‚Ä“6, 32; Zolberg,
‚ĘInternational Migration Policies‚Ä™, 241, 242, 265, Cosgrove, Our Lady the Common Law, esp. 59‚Ä“65,
70‚Ä“7; Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (eds.), The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge, 1983).
Bernard Gainer, The Alien Invasion: The Origins of the Aliens Act, 1905 (London, 1972); David

Feldman, ‚ĘThe Importance of Being English: Jewish Immigration and the Decay of Liberal
England‚Ä™, in Feldman and Gareth Stedman Jones (eds.), Metropolis: London: Histories and
Representations since 1800 (London, 1989), 56‚Ä“84; Zolberg, ‚ĘInternational Migration Policies‚Ä™, 275‚Ä“6.
A homogeneous society? Britain‚Ä™s internal ‚Ęothers‚Ä™, 1800‚Ä“present 65
from 9,569 in 1871 to 103,244 by 1911, Russians, including Poles, most
presumed Jewish, overtook Germans as the largest foreign-born group,
quintupling Britain‪s Jewish population from 60,000 in 1881 to 300,000
in 1914.52 As with the Irish, trade unionists attempted to incorporate these
proletarianised migrants, overwhelmed not simply by their numbers but
by a xenophobic and racist campaign orchestrated for Conservative
electoral advantage. The resultant Aliens Act 1905 reduced annul migra-
tion by nearly 75% between 1906 (12,481) and 1911 (3,626). Although their
large numbers fuelled scare tactics, British Jewry‪s size and diversity,
paradoxically, compelled the state to negotiate: debates about Jews‚Ä™ place
in the nation proved integral in forming a non-racial deÔ¬Ānition of
Britishness premised on relations between the individual and state insti-
tutions, institutions, ironically, on which Anglo-Saxonist ideology rested.53
The campaign for the Act of 1905 equipped Tories and xenophobes with
potent ‚Ęothering‚Ä™ rhetorics and administrative mechanisms subsequently
turned against Chinese, German and colonised migrants, among others.
IntensiÔ¬Āed differentiation between British subjects and aliens followed,
yielding the impression that whenever migrants appeared antagonism
followed, and, conversely, that the absence of conÔ¬‚ict indicated migrants‚Ä™
absence. Relying on conÔ¬‚ict to detect migrants‚Ä™ presence has allowed the
most xenophobic and racist of historical actors to stand for all Britons.
Decontextualised focus on spectacular episodes of violence renders
migrants perpetual victims, neglecting broader contexts and communities
in which everyday relations occurred.54 Portraying ‚Ęthe British‚Ä™ as
monolithic, stressing barriers between rather than dialogue among British
cultures and peoples, isolates migrants analytically from the rest of British
society and history, reproducing racists‚Ä™ own reiÔ¬Āed and naturalised
categories. According primary agency to racists, Anglocentric emphases
on ‚Ęothering‚Ä™ and polarisation neglects migrants‚Ä™ integral involvement in
building Britain‪s fundamental institutions, including unions, radical
movements, political parties, especially Labour, working-class culture,
liberalism, urban and commercial culture, industry and the professions,

1911 Census Report IX, Table XIV, ‚ĘNumber of Foreigners of Various Nationalities‚Ä™, xviii;

Table CVIII ‚ĘNumber of Foreigners . . . 1891, 1901, and 1911‚Ä™, 219; Feldman, Englishmen and Jews,
1, 127‚Ä“8, 148, 157. On prior Jewish migration, see Werner E. Mosse (ed.), Second Chance: Two
Centuries of German Speaking Jews in the United Kingdom (Tubingen, 1991).
Feldman, Englishmen and Jews, 110, 278‚Ä“9, 363‚Ä“4, 376‚Ä“82, 384‚Ä“5, 387; Zolberg, ‚ĘInternational
Migration Policies‚Ä™, 275‚Ä“6.
Swift called such approaches ‚Ępasse‚Ä™, in Irish Migrants in Britain, xxii; while Panikos Panayi
labelled them ‚ĘAnglocentric‚Ä™, in ‚ĘThe Historiography of Immigrants and Ethnic Minorities:
Britain Compared with the USA‚Ä™, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 19 (4) (1996), 829.
and modernity itself.55 Hostility towards the poor has overshadowed
substantial integration of Irish and Jewish middle-class people and pro-
fessionals, including relatively afÔ¬‚uent German Jews and literati. The
well-developed literature on these groups shows malicious xenophobes
did not represent consensus: relations within and between migrant
groups, unsurprisingly, reÔ¬‚ected and could be mitigated by class schisms
and solidarities, regional differences, political alliances or tactics, and
broad historical processes such as empire building and war.56

empire and anti-germanism
Silence about Britain‪s numerous and increasing German population
contrasts starkly with the furore greeting Russian and Polish Jews. In 1861,
imputed racial afÔ¬Ānity rationalised large numbers of mariners from
Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Germany as ‚Ędescendants of the same
races as invaded England‚Ä™, the confected ‚ĘAnglo-Saxons‚Ä™.57 Britain‚Ä™s
German population grew from 32,823 in 1871 to 53,324 in 1911.
Germanophobia punctuated the late Victorian and Edwardian years,
fuelled by geopolitical rivalry between the ascendant German Empire and
a defensive, stagnating Britain, expressed through street violence during
the Franco-Prussian War and the Boer War, and Edwardian ‚Ęspy fever‚Ä™,
culminating in the world wars of the twentieth century.58 The riots,
internment and wholesale deportation of Germans and their British-born
wives and children during and after the First World War reduced this
population from 57,500 in 1914 to 22,258 in 1919.59 Neither their numbers
nor cultural incompatibility can explain Germans‚Ä™ abrupt shift from

Colin Holmes, ‚ĘBuilding the Nation: The Contributions of Immigrants and Refugees to British
Society‚Ä™, BSA Journal (November 1991), 725‚Ä“34; Bill Williams, The Making of Manchester Jewry,
1740‚Ä“1875 (Manchester, 1976), vi‚Ä“viii; Joseph Buckman, Immigrants and the Class Struggle: The
Jewish Immigrant in Leeds 1880‚Ä“1914 (Manchester, 1983). Douglas Lorimer wrote, ‚ĘOur fascination
with the stereotype of the Other runs the risk of denying historical agency to the objects of the
racist gaze‚Ä™, in ‚ĘReconstructing Victorian Racial Discourse: Images of Race, the Language of Race
Relations, and the Context of Black Resistance‚Ä™, in Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina (ed.), Black
Victorians/Black Victoriana (New Brunswick, NJ, 2003), 203.
Holmes, John Bull‪s Island, 61, 140; Mosse, Second Chance; Swift and Gilley, Irish in the Victorian
City, 5; Swift, Irish Migrants in Britain, xxii, 49‚Ä“50, 73‚Ä“80, 149; Belchem, ‚ĘEnglish Working Class
Radicals‚Ä™; Gallagher, ‚ĘA Tale of Two Cities‚Ä™, 109‚Ä“10, 112, 116, 122 and passim.
1861 Census Report pp1863 (3221) LIII Pt. I, 39‚Ä“40.
Holmes, John Bull‚Ä™s Island, 62; Panikos Panayi, ‚ĘAnti-German Riots in Britain During the First
World War‚Ä™, in Panayi (ed.), Racial Violence in Britain in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
(London, 1996), 65‚Ä“6.
Sir E. Troup, ‚ĘTreatment of Alien Enemies‚Ä™. Cabinet Papers. CAB24/55 (GT4931) n.d.c. June 1918,
TNA ff. 129‚Ä“32. The fullest treatment of this episode remains Panayi, Enemy in Our Midst.
A homogeneous society? Britain‚Ä™s internal ‚Ęothers‚Ä™, 1800‚Ä“present 67
Table 2. Origin of major foreign-born populations

1861a 1871b 1901c
1881 1891 1911 1921 1931

Germany 32,823 49,133
21,438 37,301 50,599 53,324 12,358 14,981
United States 8,270 19,740 18,494
17,767 16,664 19,171 11,220
France 20,797
12,989 17,906 14,596 20,467 28,827 23,659 15,628
Poland 9,569 45,074 82,844 84,896
5,249 14,468 95,541 56,382
and Russia
Italy 6,504 20,332 20,389 19,098 16,878
4,489 5,063 9,909
<7,643 <7,426 <5,927
Holland 6,258 6,350 6,851

1901 Census Report, I 1904 (Cd.2174), 142.

1871 Census Report: Population Abstracts III 1873 (.872) Table xxiii, ‚ĘNumber of Natives of Foreign

Countries . . . ‚Ä™, li.
1911 General Census Report with Appendices 1917 (Cd.8491) Table CVIII, ‚ĘNumber of Foreigners

. . . ‚Ä™ 219.
Sources: Colin Holmes, ‚ĘImmigrants and Refugees in Britain‚Ä™, in Mosse, Second Chance, 12; 1871
Census Report: Population Abstracts, III, PP1873 (C.872), Table XXIII, ‚ĘNumber of Natives of Foreign
Countries . . . ‚Ä™, li; 1901 Census Report, PP1904 (Cd.2174) CVII, 142; 1911 General Census Report with
Appendices, PP1917‚Ä“18 (Cd.8491) XXXV, Table CVIII ‚ĘNumber of Foreigners . . . 1891, 1901, and 1911‚Ä™,
219; 1931 General Census Report (London, 1950), Table LXXVII, 177; see also essays by Pollinson and
Newman in Mosse, Second Chance.

insiders to ‚Ęothers‚Ä™ in these years, nor can the ‚Ęcommonsense‚Ä™ equation
among numbers, visibility and conÔ¬‚ict explain the dearth of resistance to
Belgians, 200,000 of whom arrived between August 1914 and spring 1915,
outnumbering all the Russian and Polish Jews who arrived between 1881
and 1914.60 Rather, long-standing Anglo-German imperial rivalry pro-
duced war, transforming Germans overnight into enemies within,
racialised as ‚ĘHuns‚Ä™, with Belgians portrayed as their victims.
Scholarly and popular focus on the Irish, Jews and Germans begs the
question of other substantial groups such as the French, Italians, Amer-
icans and Scots (see Table 2). Political economy and speciÔ¬Ācally empire
building may suggest why. Although French-born residents remained
among the top two or three largest groups throughout the nineteenth
century, Francophobia, critical to eighteenth-century British nation
building, apparently dissipated once France ceased threatening Britain‪s
imperial dominance.61 As Home Rule agitation posed a speciÔ¬Ācally anti-
imperial threat, the Irish replaced the French and Spanish as the Roman

Holmes, ‚ĘHistorians and Immigration‚Ä™, 173.
On Francophobia and imperial competition, see Colley, Britons.
Catholic ‚Ęother‚Ä™.62 Consistently among the top Ô¬Āve, Italians, like the
Chinese and West Indians a classic ‚Ęlabour diaspora‚Ä™ retaining links with
their homeland, attracted only sporadic concern until Axis rivalry for
global dominance made them imperial enemies; its tragic consequence
the 2 July 1940 drowning of half of Italian internees on the Arandora
Star.63 In contrast, the seamen‪s union and the yellow press, manipulating
‚Ęothering‚Ä™ images of immorality and racial inferiority, fomented panic
about the minuscule presence of a few thousand Chinese.64

colonised diasporas / imperial circulation
In contrast to the Irish, other colonial subjects, while present during the
period of ‚Ęfree trade imperialism‚Ä™, excited little apparent hostility and
have received minimal scholarly treatment: scholars once thought they
had ‚Ędisappeared‚Ä™ altogether.65 Africans actually diminished from 385 in
1851 to 258 in 1861.66 Rediscovering colonised people‪s ubiquity in, and
contributions to, Victorian and Edwardian Britain helps destabilise the
boundedness of the British nation. A surprising variety of African resi-
dents and sojourners, including skilled workers, domestic servants, stu-
dents, political activists, businessmen, merchants, artists, entertainers and
seafarers lived in or circulated through Britain throughout the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries.67 A web of dense and overlapping personal net-
works of black Britons, Africans, Afro-Caribbeans and African Americans
crisscrossed Britain, the Empire, and beyond, creating a diasporic ‚ĘBlack

Swift and Gilley, Irish in the Victorian City, 4; Swift, Irish Migrants in Britain, 118‚Ä“19.
The phrase is from Robin Cohen, ‚ĘDiasporas, the Nation-State, and Globalisation‚Ä™, in Wang,
Global History and Migrations, 129; Lucio Sponza, Italian Immigrants in Nineteenth Century
Britain: Realities and Images (Leicester, 1988); Terry Colpi, The Italian Factor: The Italian
Community in Great Britain (Edinburgh, 1991); Terry Colpi, ‚ĘThe Impact of the Second World
War on the British Italian Community‚Ä™, Immigrants and Minorities, 11 (3) (1992), 167‚Ä“86.
Wong, Chinese Liverpudlians, 78‚Ä“83; Harris Joshua, Tina Wallace and Heather Booth, To Ride the
Storm: The 1980 Bristol ‚ĘRiot‚Ä™ and the State (London, 1983), 17‚Ä“19; Laura Tabili, ‚ĘWe Ask for British
Justice‚Ä™: Workers and Racial Difference in Late Imperial Britain (Ithaca, 1994), 86‚Ä“95.
Ian DufÔ¬Āeld, ‚ĘSkilled Workers or Marginalised Poor? The African Population of the United
Kingdom, 1812‚Ä“52‚Ä™, Immigrants and Minorities, 12 (3) (1993), 49‚Ä“87, offers a pithy assessment of the
literature up to 1993. Also see pioneering historical treatments in Kenneth Lindsay Little, Negroes
in Britain: A Study of Race Relations in an English City ((1948) London, 1972); Michael Banton, The
Coloured Quarter: Negro Immigrants in an English City (London, 1955), 18‚Ä“36. Norma Myers,
Rediscovering the Black Past: Blacks in Britain, 1780‚Ä“1830 (London, 1996); Diane Frost, Work and
Community among West African Migrant Workers in the Nineteenth Century (Liverpool, 1999).
1881 General Census Report, pp1883 (3797) LXXX, 52‚Ä“5.
DufÔ¬Āeld, ‚ĘSkilled Workers‚Ä™; David Killingray, ‚ĘAfricans in the United Kingdom: An Introduction‚Ä™,
Immigrants and Minorities, 12 (3) (1993), 2‚Ä“27, esp. 11, 17.
A homogeneous society? Britain‚Ä™s internal ‚Ęothers‚Ä™, 1800‚Ä“present 69
Atlantic‚Ä™.68 Indians too circulated to Britain and back to Asia: by 1891
numbers of Indian and colonial subjects had risen to 111,627, attributed in
part to the increased size of the Empire, yet ‚Ęgreater than can thus be
explained‚Ä™.69 The 1911 census estimated the Indian population at 3,891 men
and 176 women, 2,531 of them lascar seamen, and 931 students.70 Indians,
Africans and other colonised subjects, present in Britain throughout
centuries of colonialism, resurfaced as problematical only in the context of
imperial crises. Britain‪s renewed late nineteenth-century drive for empire
simultaneously hardened class stratiÔ¬Ācation in Britain and racial stratiÔ¬Ā-
cation in the colonies, evidence of the ongoing dialectical exchange of
people, ideas and cultural practices between colonies and metropoles.71
As for Irish labourers, class mattered: since their exploitation secured
the imperial system, colonised workers in Britain destabilised imperial
hierarchies more than sojourners such as students or dignitaries, who
experienced random cruelty and harassment but not systemic sub-
ordination.72 Traversing the spatial distance between metropole and
colonies, colonised workers threatened the imperial appropriation that
geographical separation reinforced, obscured and excused. Rendering
geographical barriers permeable, thus ideological dichotomies unstable,
colonised workers, in competing with native Britons for resources
expropriated to the metropole, threatened the economic and political
imbalances sustaining the imperial system. Their presence became pro-
blematical, thus remarked in an otherwise silent historical record.73
If imputed racial afÔ¬Ānities failed to protect Germans from xenophobia
during the First World War, imputed racial difference alone hardly seems
sufÔ¬Ācient to explain hostility towards and violence against Arabs and
other colonised workers in 1919 and after.74 In the 1920s and 1930s

Jeffrey Green, Black Edwardians: Black People in Britain 1901‚Ä“1914 (London, 1998); Paul Gilroy,

The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, MA, 1993).
1881 General Census Report, 55; 1891 Census, 61; Visram, Asians in Britain; Michael Fisher,

CounterÔ¬‚ows to Colonialism: Indian Travellers and Settlers in Britain, 1600‚Ä“1857 (Delhi, 2004).
1911 Census Report: Birthplaces pp1913 (Cd. 7017) LXXVIII 216.
Christine Bolt, Victorian Attitudes to Race (London, 1971); Douglas Lorimer, Colour, Class and the
Victorians: English Attitudes to the Negro in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Leicester, 1978); Said,
Orientalism; Frederick Cooper and Ann L. Stoler, ‚ĘIntroduction: Tensions of Empire: Colonial
Control and Visions of Rule‚Ä™, American Ethnologist, 16 (4) (1989), 600‚Ä“21; Stoler, Race and the
Education of Desire; and several essays in Henry Louis Gates (ed.), ‚ĘRace‚Ä™, Writing and Difference
(Chicago, 1985).
Shompa Lahiri, Indians in Britain: Anglo-Indian Encounters, Race and Identity 1880‚Ä“1930 (London,

Tabili, ‚ĘWe Ask for British Justice‚Ä™.
A useful treatment is Roy May and Robin Cohen, ‚ĘThe Interaction Between Race and Colonialism:
A Case Study of the Liverpool Race Riots of 1919‚Ä™, Race and Class, 14 (2) (1974), 111‚Ä“26.
colonised workers preoccupied the Home OfÔ¬Āce Aliens department
despite their technical status, like the Irish, as internal migrants. Neither
their number, never exceeding a few thousand, nor their cultural prac-
tices, which remained diverse, explain this; rather their migration from
colonies to metropole threatened the political economy of imperial
extraction. Efforts to exclude colonised mariners originated not with
popular ‚Ęintolerance‚Ä™, but with employers who wanted them conÔ¬Āned to
the colonies, cheap and unprotected by union or social wages. Agents
provocateurs precipitated the Mill Dam riot of 1930 to destroy the Sea-
men‪s Minority Movement precisely because it organised across racial
lines, threatening the unbalanced divisions of labour and compensation
integral to Britain‪s faltering empire.75

since 1945: was the windrush something new?
Panic about overseas migrants, prompting preoccupation with Britishness
and otherness, recurred after 1945, another historical moment of vul-
nerability accompanying the perceived demise of Britain‪s imperial
power. Part of a broader Cold War project aiming to forestall perceived
cultural challenges associated with fears of decline, British social scientists
borrowed from failed US racial paradigms, imposing a rigid outsider/
insider binarism on Britain‚Ä™s Ô¬‚uid post-imperial relations. This inter-
pretation effectively erased centuries of migration to and from the colo-
nies as well as Europe and elsewhere, presenting colonised workers in
Britain as an alarming anomaly. Popular understandings postulated dis-
continuity between migration to Britain, often dated spuriously to the
1948 arrival of Caribbean migrants on the Empire Windrush, and social
homogeneity and harmony allegedly characterising previous centuries.76
Alarm about colonised migrants stemmed not from their modest
numbers ‚Ä“ only 2,000 per year between 1948 and 1953 ‚Ä“ but from media
hype coupled with covert state moves towards restriction. The British
state manipulated distinctions between Irish, colonial and displaced
European workers, a class project to divide and control working people.
The state exaggerated ‚Ęnumbers‚Ä™ of colonial migrants relative to more
numerous Europeans, recruiting over 200,000 of the latter between 1945
and 1948 alone. The state favoured Europeans not only for their perceived
Tabili, ‚ĘWe Ask for British Justice‚Ä™; David Byrne, ‚ĘThe 1930 ‚Ę‚ĘArab Riot‚Ä™‚Ä™ in South Shields: A Race
Riot That Never Was‚Ä™, Race and Class, 18 (3) (1977), 261‚Ä“77.
Chris Waters, ‚Ę ‚Ę‚ĘDark Strangers‚Ä™‚Ä™ in Our Midst: Discourses of Race and Nation in Britain,
1947‚Ä“1963‚Ä™, Journal of British Studies, 36 (April 1997), 207‚Ä“38.
A homogeneous society? Britain‚Ä™s internal ‚Ęothers‚Ä™, 1800‚Ä“present 71
‚Ęcultural‚Ä™ afÔ¬Ānities with native workers but for their lack of labour rights
in Britain. Colonised workers enjoyed citizenship, thus the prerogative to
seek and leave jobs as other British workers.77
Although Caribbean migration slackened by the late 1950s in response to
Britain‪s depressed labour market, the Notting Hill and Nottingham riots
of summer 1958 panicked the state into immigration restriction that
actually stimulated migration from the colonies to ‚Ębeat the ban‚Ä™, while
encouraging popular xenophobia and racism.78 Subsequent state inter-
vention has largely legitimated racial divisions through institutional racism,
policing, and state and media rhetorics of cultural incompatibility.79 Non-
historians‚Ä™ domination of post-1945 scholarship has reinforced a sense of
crisis, neglecting the constant history of circulation and cultural exchange
between Britain, the Empire and beyond. Multiculturalism may appear
unprecedented and alarming rather than an enriching constant of British
and indeed human history. Nonetheless, as evidence of this continuing
process, postwar popular culture has become synonymous with black
diaspora culture embodied in music and other art forms.80

Emigration too remains inseparable from imperialism. Emigrants Ô¬‚ed a
society in which state redirection of resources to empire building rather
than domestic consumption and redistribution robbed domestic popula-
tions of economic and other prospects.81 Restricted until 1815 due to the
Napoleonic Wars, emigration subsequently became governments‚Ä™ ‚Ępanacea
for all social ills‚Ä™.82 Part of an exodus of millions from Europe, amount-
ing to ‚Ęthe greatest transfer of populations in the history of mankind‚Ä™,

Kathleen Paul, Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era (Ithaca, 1997), 119
and passim; Ceri Peach, West Indian Migration to Britain: A Social Geography (Baltimore, 1965);
Paul Foot, Immigration and Race in British Politics (London, 1968); James Hampshire, Citizenship
and Belonging: Immigration and the Politics of Demographic Government in Postwar Britain
(Basingstoke, 2005), esp. 46, 61‚Ä“2, 66, 70‚Ä“4, 76.
Peach, West Indian Migration to Britain; Foot, Immigration and Race in British Politics; Gilroy,
‚ĘThere Ain‚Ä™t No Black in the Union Jack‚Ä™.
A. Sivanandan, A Different Hunger: Writings on Black Resistance (London, 1982), esp. 99‚Ä“140;
Stuart Hall et al., Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order (London, 1978);
Wendy Webster, Imagining Home: Gender, ‚ĘRace‚Ä™ and National Identity, 1945‚Ä“64 (London,
1998); Gail Lewis and Sarah Neal, ‚ĘIntroduction: Contemporary Political Contexts, Changing
Terrains, and Revisited Discourses‚Ä™, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28 (3) (2005), 423‚Ä“44.
Paul Gilroy, ‚ĘOne Nation Under a Groove: The Cultural Politics of Race and Racism in Britain‚Ä™,
in Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny (eds.), Becoming National: A Reader (Oxford, 1996), 361.
Alexander Murdoch, British Emigration 1603‚Ä“1914 (London, 2004); Lenin, Imperialism.
Redford, Labour Migration in England, 172.
thirty-seven million Europeans migrated to North America, eleven million
to South America and, among Britons, 3.5 million to Australia and New
Zealand, rendering emigration indivisible from empire building.83
Emigrants to the Americas, Australia and elsewhere, often cast-offs
from their own society, participated, whether voluntarily or involuntarily,
in the dispossession and enslavement, even extermination, of indigenous
people, in some respects constituting the shock troops of empire.84 Not
surprisingly, their commitment to racial subordination remained stronger
than that of metropolitan populations.85 Settlers, occupying a ‚Ęmiddle
position‚Ä™ between indigenes and colonial states, proved most intransigent,
even when abandoned by the imperial state after 1945.86
Thus the emergence of ‚Ęinternal others‚Ä™ may derive less from people‚Ä™s
presence or absence, their number, their cultural practices, or the inherent
viciousness and intolerance of ordinary Britons, than from structural
shifts rendering them visible or invisible, problematical or not. Only a far
more complete record of migration from the Empire and outside it can
afÔ¬Ārm or invalidate this or other open questions. These remain most
effectively tested by enquiring into the history of overseas migration
before 1945, a project remaining far from Ô¬Ānished. When this is complete
we may better assess the historical contexts that rendered newcomers or
long-standing residents ‚Ęinternal others‚Ä™ at particular historical moments.
The abundant documentation that visible episodes of conÔ¬‚ict generated
might be mined more creatively to illuminate the deeper structures and
cultures within which migrants and natives lived and interacted, unco-
vering the corrosive everyday cruelties twentieth-century memoirists and
oral historians report, but also accommodation and coexistence, marriage
and family, as David Nirenberg used medieval pogroms or Ellen Ross
domestic violence.87
Klug, ‚ĘOh, To Be in England‚Ä™, 34. The quote is from Moch, Moving Europeans, 147.
Howard L. Malchow, Population Pressures: Emigration and Government in Late Nineteenth-Century
Britain (Palo Alto, 1979); Eric Richards, Britannia‪s Children: Emigration from England, Scotland,
Wales, and Ireland since 1600 (London, 2004); Stephen Constantine (ed.), Migrants and Empire:
British Settlement in the Dominions between the Wars (Manchester, 1990); on involuntary
emigration, see especially Philip Bean and Joy Melville‪s oral history project, Lost Children of the
Empire (London, 1989); Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore (New York, 1987).
Neville Kirk, Comrades and Cousins: Globalization, Workers and Labour Movements in Britain, the
USA and Australia from the 1880s to 1914 (London, 2003), part 3.
John Springhall, Decolonization since 1945: The Collapse of European Overseas Empires (London,

2001), esp. 129, 133, 146‚Ä“84; Caroline Elkins, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain‚Ä™s
Gulag in Kenya (New York, 2005).
Ellen Ross, ‚ĘFierce Questions and Taunts: Married Life in Working-Class London, 1870‚Ä“1914‚Ä™,
Feminist Studies, 8 (1982), 575‚Ä“602; David Nirenberg, Communities of Violence: Persecution of
Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton, 1996).
A homogeneous society? Britain‚Ä™s internal ‚Ęothers‚Ä™, 1800‚Ä“present 73
Complete analysis must account not only for migrants‚Ä™ agency but
state and industrial impositions.88 Future research must enquire how
relations among migrants and between migrants and natives became
complicated not only by cultural, religious or racial differences but fur-
ther stressed or eased by economic instability, class, gender and sexual
relations, imperial dynamics and local contexts. Examining these multiple
dimensions of inclusion and ‚Ęotherness‚Ä™ may deepen our understanding
that ‚Ęracial‚Ä™ conÔ¬‚ict did not arrive in Britain with colonised subjects but
inhered in Britain‚Ä™s ‚Ęimperial social formation‚Ä™.89

a case study: south shields 1841‚Ä“1939
My ongoing research on industrial South Shields seeks to account for
local and global as well as national and imperial dynamics shaping
demographic diversity and migrant‚Ä“native relations. A surprising volume
and variety of overseas migrants passed through or settled in Victorian
South Shields, even before migration became a public issue. Each census
from 1841 through 1901 revealed overseas-born people living in the town,
and their numbers and proportion increased steadily throughout the
century. Mirroring national trends, the overseas-born population of
South Shields grew, from 32 in 23,000 or .13% in 1841 to 929 in 78,391 or
1.18% in 1891.90 In its preponderance of men South Shields‚Ä™ foreign-born
population proved typical rather than atypical of long-distance migrants
to other industrial towns. As in the country as a whole, Germans con-
stituted the largest single group throughout the nineteenth century, fol-
lowed by Norwegians, rivalled in numbers only by Arabs from the Yemen
and East Africa who arrived in the twentieth century.
Overseas migrants hardly remained isolated in Victorian South Shields:
census returns show most resided with or were related to native-born
residents, and many enjoyed strong personal relationships with other
natives. Evidence from naturalisation case Ô¬Āles illustrates how nineteenth-
century migrants became incorporated into British society through local
personal networks and cultural practices such as work, marriage and kin-
ship.91 This contrasts with John Foster‚Ä™s results which showed signiÔ¬Ācant

See, for example, several essays in James and Harris, Inside Babylon.
Mrinalini Sinha, Colonial Masculinity: The ‚ĘManly Englishman‚Ä™ and the ‚ĘEffeminate Bengali‚Ä™ in the
Late Nineteenth Century (Manchester, 1995).
My tabulation of the 1901 census remains incomplete at this writing.
Laura Tabili, ‚Ę ‚Ę‚ĘHaving Lived Close Beside Them All the Time‚Ä™‚Ä™: Negotiating National Identities
Through Personal Networks‚Ä™, Journal of Social History, 39 (2) (2005), 59‚Ä“80.
segregation between the Irish and natives in mid-century South Shields,
measured in residential patterns and endogamy.92 The explanation may
lie in overseas migrants‚Ä™ relative afÔ¬‚uence: whereas the town‚Ä™s workforce
generally practised semi-skilled occupations threatened by the unskilled
Irish, whom Victorian employers deployed as strike-breakers,93 inter-
national migrants tended to be skilled workmen and small shopkeepers
with independent means, however modest.94 By far the largest such group,
Germans constituted a recognisable community with shops, a church and a
high proportion of endogamous households. In South Shields, only Jews
and, in the 1920s and 1930s, Arabs, formed similarly visible communities.
Sailors, more similar in class character to the natives and Irish, made
up the largest and steadily increasing occupational group by far,
accounting for more than one-third of the town‪s male labour force in the
1840s and 20.5% of all wage earners in 1891,95 drawn from across the
globe, but mostly northern Europe, Scandinavia and, in the twentieth
century, the Baltic and the Gulf of Aden. Tyneside arguably became a
‚Ęzone of contact‚Ä™, a borderland or frontier analogous to Gilroy‚Ä™s Black
Atlantic: there, diverse people converged and dispersed, dissolving
boundaries between Britons and ‚Ęothers‚Ä™, and exemplifying circulation
rather than unidirectional and Ô¬Ānite movement as the characteristic
pattern of human mobility.96 As the expanding industry recruited non-
British seafarers after 1851, many ports in Britain, a maritime society,
likely assumed this character.
Tyneside‪s economy relied substantially on state expenditures for railroads,
battleships and other infrastructure locally and in the overseas Empire. Thus
it depended ‚Ęon the subordination of other economies‚Ä™ including colonial

Class Struggle and the Industrial Revolution: Early Industrial Capitalism in Three English Towns
(London, 1979), 128‚Ä“9. Pooley found enclavement might occur involuntarily due to poverty and
discrimination, or voluntarily due to cultural cohesion, manifested in institutions such as
churches, in ‚ĘThe Residential Segregation of Migrant Communities‚Ä™.
J. Carney, R. Hudson, G. Ive and J. Lewis, ‚ĘRegional Underdevelopment in Late Capitalism: A
Study of the Northeast of England‚Ä™, in I. Masser (ed.), Theory and Practice in Regional Science
(London, 1976), 18.
That is, classes iv vs iii or ii on the Armstrong-Booth occupational scales. W. A. Armstrong, ‚ĘThe
Use of Information About Occupation‚Ä™, in E. A. Wrigley (ed.), Nineteenth-Century Society: Essays
in the Use of Quantitative Methods for the Study of Social Data (Cambridge, 1972), 191‚Ä“310, esp.
tables 215f.
Foster, Class Struggle and the Industrial Revolution, 90; J. W. House, North-Eastern England:
Population Movements and the Landscape Since the Early Nineteenth Century (Newcastle, 1954), 60.
Zolberg, ‚ĘInternational Migration Policies‚Ä™, 243, 245. On ‚Ęcontact zones‚Ä™, see Peter Sahlins,
Boundaries: The Making of France and Spain in the Pyrenees (Berkeley, 1989), 4‚Ä“5; Mary Louise
Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London, 1992), 4, 6; also Gilroy, Fisher,
DufÔ¬Āeld and Green cited above.
A homogeneous society? Britain‚Ä™s internal ‚Ęothers‚Ä™, 1800‚Ä“present 75
ones, formal and informal.97 Yet colonised people and other empires
increasingly contested this privileged and ultimately precarious position.
With the new century, the town‚Ä™s social Ô¬‚uidity diminished due to
deepening imperial crisis, reÔ¬‚ected in economic contraction and inten-
siÔ¬Āed scrutiny of overseas migrants. Shifting state and industrial policies,
driven by global competition for imperial and industrial advantage,
increasingly impinged on local social relations, conÔ¬‚icting with the sur-
vival strategies as well as the loyalties and sensibilities of local people. The
state removed discretion over naturalisation from local residents to
industry and the military, and mariners became subject to increasingly
intensive surveillance, policing and manipulation, segregating them from
land-based society, curtailing their freedom of movement and inhibiting
their incorporation into local society. The First World War, climaxing
decades of Anglo-German imperial rivalry, overnight made enemy aliens
of long-standing German residents and their families, subjecting them to
internment, press calumny, mob violence and ultimately deportation.
Before and during the war a new group of migrants became visible in
South Shields: mariners from Britain‪s newly acquired possessions in
Aden, the Yemen and East Africa. South Shields‚Ä™ Arab community
formed in the same decades as Britain became increasingly inhospitable to
overseas migrants, including colonial subjects, due to imperial and
industrial crises. Attacks on Arabs in 1919 and 1930 appear analogous to
those on the Irish in the nineteenth century, stemming from a common
structural position: competing with locals for unskilled labour in a
depressed labour market. Yet some processes of incorporation, such as
intermarriage, co-residence and naturalisation, remained available to
Arabs in the 1920s and 1930s as they had to previous migrants. Migrant‚Ä“
native relations hardly reÔ¬‚ected rigid ‚Ęothering‚Ä™ binarisms, instead
responding to class positionality, economic and industrial shifts, gender
and social relations, and local, national, imperial and global dynamics.

As we consider imperial inÔ¬‚uences on domestic social relations, we dis-
cover that arguments attributing hostility towards ‚Ęinternal others‚Ä™ to

John Foster, ‚ĘSouth Shields Labour Movement in the 1830‚Ä™s and 1840‚Ä™s‚Ä™, North East Labour History
Bulletin, 4 (1970), 5; John Foster, ‚ĘNineteenth Century Towns: A class dimension‚Ä™, in H. J. Dyos
(ed.), The Study of Urban History (New York, 1968), 282; Anthony King, Urbanism, Colonialism
and the World-Economy: Cultural and Spatial Foundations of the World Urban System (London,
1990), esp. 70, 74.
cultural differences, excessive numbers or endemic ‚Ęintolerance‚Ä™ neglect
British and European empire building and imperial competition that
rendered various migrants problematical. Britain‚Ä™s ‚Ęinternal others‚Ä™
emerged due to their shifting positionality during recurrent crises of
empire building, illustrated by the fate of Germans who had lived in
Britain for decades. Domestic political advantage, class projects to divide
and rule while promoting empire building, Anglo-Saxonism and other
forms of racism informing the ‚Ęcondition of England‚Ä™ question, and
racialised global divisions of labour all reÔ¬‚ected the imperatives of imperial
political economy, while Britain‪s population circulated throughout the
Empire and beyond it.
Scholarship about Britain‚Ä™s ‚Ęinternal others‚Ä™ thus demands contex-
tualisation within a broader challenge not only to the assumed homo-
geneity but to the geographical boundedness of British society. Britain has
always been culturally diverse, and the boundaries and deÔ¬Ānitions of
Britishness Ô¬‚uid, protean, contested and changeable over time.98 Investi-
gating processes that created ‚Ęothers‚Ä™ and erased them from the historical
landscape shows how repeated transformations in culture and identity and
continually shifting boundaries between ‚ĘBritish‚Ä™ and ‚Ęothers‚Ä™ responded to
the broader, global context of competing empires.
Samuel, Island Stories.
chapter four

At home with the Empire: the example
of Ireland
Christine Kinealy

The position of Ireland within the British Empire, especially after 1801
when the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was created,
divides both Irish and non-Irish historians. From this date, the political
relationship between Ireland and Britain became paradoxical, with Ire-
land being part of the imperial parliament, yet treated by that body as a
subordinate partner within the United Kingdom. Despite the new leg-
islative framework resulting from the Union, Ireland was regarded as a
colony, moreover, a dangerous one, as the intermittent rebellions attested.
The colonial association between Ireland and Britain was well estab-
lished by the time of the Act of Union. It had originated in the twelfth
century, although the whole country was not under English control until
the early seventeenth century.1 Even before this time, there were attempts
to control Ireland‪s political, economic and cultural traditions through a
combination of military and legislative means and to segregate natives and
settlers.2 From the thirteenth century, Ireland had possessed its own par-
liament, but after 1494 its policy-making had been subjugated to the
English parliament. It was not until 1782 that the Irish parliament received
limited legislative autonomy, although Catholics remained excluded. For
some Irish nationalists, inspired by the revolutions in Colonial America
and France, this concession was too little. An unsuccessful republican
uprising in 1798 brought this phase of limited self-government to an end
and precipitated the Act of Union. This legislation, which created the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, abolished the parliament in
Dublin and brought Irish representatives into the imperial parliament in

In 1603, Hugh O‪Neill surrendered to Queen Elizabeth (who was dead). The crowning of James VI
of Scotland as James I of England in the same year, created a British monarch.
The Statutes of Kilkenny (1366) attempted to halt the Gaelicisation of the English colony by
prohibiting social relations between the colonisers and the native Irish; in the Ô¬Āfteenth century, a
ditch (pale) was built around the area of English rule. See, S. J. Connolly (ed.), The Oxford
Companion to Irish History (Oxford, 1998), 286‚Ä“7, 424‚Ä“5.

London. Irish historians, however, have taken diametrically opposing views
of whether or not Ireland was a colony during these centuries.3
The Union was not achieved by consensus, but was forced on the Irish
parliament.4 As a consequence, Ireland occupied a distinctive position
within the British Empire, becoming part of the metropolitan core while
simultaneously remaining a crucial component of the imperial project.5
Regardless of the Union, visible vestiges of a colonial relationship continued.
An Irish Executive, based in Dublin Castle, remained, consisting of a
Viceroy (or Lord Lieutenant) assisted by a Chief Secretary and Under-
Secretary, all of whom were appointed in London and answerable directly to
the British Premier. The ofÔ¬Āce of Viceroy survived until 1922.6 Less visibly,
but no less importantly, after 1801 the economic, political, social and cultural
interests of Ireland remained secondary to those of Britain. The disastrous
consequence of this mindset was most evident during the Great Famine of
1845 to 1852, when Ireland lost over one-quarter of her population.
After 1801, the Irish presence within both the United Kingdom and the
imperial parliament placed Irish issues at the heart of British politics.
Moreover, Ireland‪s standing within the Empire changed as Irish people
existed ‚Ęnot simply as imperial subjects, but also as players in the Empire at
large: as migrants and settlers, merchants and adventurers, soldiers and
administrators, doctors and missionaries‚Ä™.7 To what extent did the Irish
population view themselves as part of the imperial core, and were they
accepted as such? Was it possible for Ireland to be both imperial and colonial
concurrently and for its people to be simultaneously colonisers and colonised?8
Despite the exceptional nature of the Irish colonial encounter, there were
parallels with other parts of the British Empire, especially with reference
to cultural stereotyping, law and order, voting rights, trade, famine and
education. In each of these areas, Ireland was treated differently from the
rest of the United Kingdom, having more in common with other parts of
For opposing views see, Jane H. Ohlmeyer, ‚ĘA Laboratory for Empire?: Early Modern Ireland and
English Imperialism‚Ä™, in Kevin Kenny, Ireland and the British Empire (Oxford, 2004), 28‚Ä“9, and S.
Ellis, ‚ĘRepresentations of the Past in Ireland: Whose Past and Whose Present?‚Ä™, Irish Historical
Studies, 27 (1991), 294.
Alvin Jackson, ‚ĘThe Irish Act of Union‚Ä™, History Today, 51(1) ( January 2001), 19‚Ä“25.
See Christine Kinealy, A Disunited Kingdom? England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales 1800‚Ä“1949

(Cambridge, 1999) and Michael Hechter, Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe in British National
Development, 1536‚Ä“1966 (Berkeley, 1975).
Its abolition was debated in the British parliament in 1823, 1830, 1844, 1850, 1857 and 1858. See R. B.
McDowell, The Irish Administration 1801‚Ä“1914 (London, 1964).
Kevin Kenny, ‚ĘIreland and the British Empire: An Introduction‚Ä™, in his Ireland and the British
Empire, 4.
See Keith Jeffery (ed.), ‚ĘAn Irish Empire‚Ä™: Aspects of Ireland and the British Empire (Manchester,
At home with Empire: the example of Ireland 79
the Empire.9 Furthermore, Irish resistance to colonialism, including the
campaign for Catholic Emancipation, the struggle for independence and
the agitation for land reform, were watched by nationalist groups else-
where.10 Yet, by the beginning of the twentieth century, other countries
within the Empire had achieved more political independence than Ireland,
and they were arguing that similar rights should extend to Ireland. Thus, in
1903 and 1906, the Canadian House of Commons and the Australian
Legislature respectively passed measures supporting Irish Home Rule.11
While the Irish nationalist movement was well organised, even by Eur-
opean standards, concurrently, loyalism to the Union, the crown and the
Empire, as embodied by the Orange Order, provided a model of allegiance
for pro-Empire groups. Overall, responses to the Union within Ireland
(both for and against) changed the nature of the British political landscape,
while forcing a reconsideration of Britain‪s other colonial relationships in
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
This chapter examines the relationship between Ireland and Britain,
and between Ireland and the Empire, from the passage of the Act of
Union to the Partition of Ireland in 1920. A central contention is that,
even after 1801, Ireland continued to be treated as a colony by successive
British administrations, albeit as a distinctive one because of its con-
stitutional position within the United Kingdom. Furthermore, it is
argued that Irish history during this period can be understood only in the
context of a colonial association with Britain.

was ireland a colony?
The opinion that Ireland was not a colony has had powerful advocates
among British and Irish historians, from Thomas Babington Macaulay in
the 1840s and 1850s12 to Roy Foster and Steven Ellis at the end of the
twentieth century. Arguing from different perspectives, they have each
portrayed Irish history as assimilated history, and the association with
Britain and its empire as benign.13 A number of inÔ¬‚uential historians have

For example, Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famine: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (Oxford,
Tony Ballantyne, ‚ĘThe Sinews of Empire: Ireland, India and the Construction of British Colonial
Knowledge‚Ä™, in Terence McDonough (ed.), Was Ireland a Colony? Economics, Politics and Culture
in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Dublin, 2005), 145‚Ä“64.
Jeffery, ‚ĘIntroduction‚Ä™, in An Irish Empire, 6. 12 See Catherine Hall, Chapter 2.
Ellis, ‚ĘRepresentations of the Past in Ireland‚Ä™, 288‚Ä“308; R. Foster, ‚ĘHistory and the Irish Question‚Ä™,
in Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in English and Irish History (London, 1993), 1‚Ä“20. Foster
prefers to talk about England, not Britain, regarding Ireland.
denied the existence of anti-Irish racism in Britain.14 At the beginning of
the twenty-Ô¬Ārst century, these interpretations have been championed by
Stephen Howe, who rejects the term ‚Ęcolonial‚Ä™ as valid when applied to
nineteenth-century Ireland.15 Such contentions, however, disregard the
fact that Ireland was not treated as an equal partner within the United
Kingdom, while successive British governments viewed her retention
within the Empire as crucial to the maintenance of the imperial project.
Moreover, as Tony Ballantyne has argued, Ireland provided imperial
administrators with an expertise and ‚Ęcolonial knowledge‚Ä™ that they
deployed in other sites of empire, most notably India.16
Seeing Ireland in its wider colonial context has been championed by
some younger Irish historians, who have broadened the debate beyond the
discipline of history, most strikingly in the Ô¬Āeld of literary and cultural
criticism. The fact that the debate continues to be polarised is evident in
the collection of interdisciplinary essays, published in 2005, entitled Was
Ireland a Colony? Economics, Politics and Culture in Nineteenth-Century
Ireland. In the Introduction, the editor averred that:
The colonial experience of Ireland cannot be ignored in the development of a
complete understanding of the nineteenth century. Further, an account of
colonialism is broadly necessary in the realms of economics, politics, ideology
and culture.17
In the same volume, Terry Eagleton suggested that ‚Ęat different times and
in different places, several of those forms of colonialism have complexly
A combination of geographic, historic, political and economic factors
ensured that the political association between Ireland and Britain would be
unique. The longevity of their relationship, the geographical proximity of
the islands, the changing balance of power between those who supported
union with Britain and those who desired independence, the oscillation
between reform and revolution by nationalists, and the presence of large
numbers of Irish people in Britain, ensured that the relationship between
metropole and colony would be different from that of other parts of the
Roy Foster draws heavily on the research of Sheridan Gilley; see Foster, ‚ĘWe Are All Revisionists
Now‚Ä™, Irish Review, 1 (1986), 1‚Ä“5.
Stephen Howe, Ireland and Empire: Colonial Legacies in Irish History and Culture (Oxford, 2002),
32‚Ä“9. Also see J. Ruane, ‚ĘColonialism and Interpretation of Irish Historical Development‚Ä™, in
M. Silverman and P. H. Gulliver (eds.), Approaching the Past: Historical Anthropology through Irish
Case Studies (New York, 1992), 296‚Ä“7.
Ballantyne, ‚ĘSinews of Empire‚Ä™, Was Ireland a Colony?, 155.
Ibid., Terrence McDonough, ‚ĘIntroduction‚Ä™, vi.
Ibid., Terry Eagleton, ‚ĘAfterword: Ireland and Colonialism‚Ä™, 326, 329.
At home with Empire: the example of Ireland 81
Empire. Distinction and difference within the colonial framework have
been highlighted by Simon Schama who, like Howe, juxtaposed the Irish
experience with that of India, although coming to a different conclusion.
Schama cited the Irish Famine as a tragic example of imperial misgovern-
ment under the guise of liberal administration. He believed that the British
determination to hold on to empire at all costs, including through the use
of violence, meant that opportunities for reform and a constitutional path
to self-government were lost. This response, in turn, made extremism,
bloodshed and separatism inevitable within the component parts of the
Empire, notably in Ireland and India.19 The process of letting go of empire
proved to be ungainly, ungracious, brutal and piecemeal, while creating as
many new problems as it seemed to resolve. Arguing from different per-
spectives, what Howe, Schama, Eagleton and others conÔ¬Ārm is that there is
no single model of colonial experience or of colonial disengagement.

locating ireland
Placing Ireland within the historiography of Britain and the British
Empire has proved problematic for some historians, especially when
dealing with the nineteenth century, when Irish MPs sat in the imperial
parliament. The reluctance of British historians to integrate Ireland into
their studies is exempliÔ¬Āed by Linda Colley‚Ä™s inÔ¬‚uential Britons: Forging
the Nation, 1707‚Ä“1837, in which she assigns to France a more central role
in the creation of a British identity than Ireland, by virtue of their
‚Ęotherness‚Ä™. However, if, as she also argues, British national identity was
‚Ęforged‚Ä™ in this period, thus uniting the peoples of England, Scotland and
Wales, regardless of a legislative change in 1801, Irish people remained
outside this invisible bond.20 Given the omission of Ireland from his-
torical deÔ¬Ānitions of Britishness, it is ironic that at the beginning of the
twenty-Ô¬Ārst century the most ‚Ęvolatile crucible‚Ä™ of British identity was
located in Northern Ireland.21
Ireland‪s position in the British Empire has been similarly challenging
for both Irish and non-Irish historians. At the centre of the debate is the
question of whether Ireland continued to be a colony after 1801. The
Simon Schama, A History of Britain: The Fate of Empire 1776‚Ä“2000 (New York, 2003).

Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707‚Ä“1837 (New Haven, 1992).
Willy Maly, ‚ĘNationalism and Revisionism: Ambivalences and Dissensus‚Ä™, in Scott Brewster,
Virginia Crossman, Fiona Beckett and David Alderson (eds.), Ireland in Proximity: History,
Gender, Space (London, 1999), 54; Christine Kinealy, ‚ĘThe Orange Order and Representations of
Britishness‚Ä™, in S. Caunce, E. Mazierska, S. Sydney-Smith and John Walton (eds.), Relocating
Britishness (Manchester, 2004), 217‚Ä“36.
discussion has largely followed existing ideological divisions, with con-
servative and revisionist historians refusing to discuss Irish history within an
imperial context.22 Consequently, key developments in Irish history, such
as the Great Famine, have been written about without reference to her
colonial relationship with Britain.23 The domination of revisionism among
Irish historians since the 1930s acted as an invisible censor, closing down
debate in areas considered to be controversial or anti-British.24 Brendan
Bradshaw was one of the Ô¬Ārst historians to challenge the revisionist
stranglehold in a controversial article Ô¬Ārst published in 1989, in which he
argued that Ireland‪s nationalist traditions could not be separated from her
colonial status. He also suggested that Ireland‪s uniqueness was due to her
position as the only European colony.25 In 1991, Kevin Whelan reproached
revisionist historians for removing national identity and the colonial
experience from Ireland‪s past, for their own political and ideological
reasons, and appealed for a post-revisionist agenda for Irish history.26
Revisionism, however, was not systematically challenged until the mid-
1990s, when a reappraisal of the Great Famine provided a prism for re-
examining the relationship between Britain and Ireland in the nineteenth
century.27 SigniÔ¬Ācantly, some of the new research located the experience of
the Famine in the context of Ireland‪s colonial status, thus opening a fresh
debate about Ireland‪s position within the British Empire.28 According to
Tony Ballantyne, divisions among Irish historians are entrenched because:
The question of Ireland‪s relationship to Britain and Britain‪s imperial project
stands at the heart of recent debates over revisionist approaches to the inter-
pretations of the Irish past. Ireland‪s exact status within the empire . . . [is] at the
heart of competing visions of Ireland‪s present and future.29

The revisionist approach originated in the 1930s to counter a simplistic nationalist interpretation
of Irish history. It claimed to be objective and apolitical; a claim that was hard to sustain after 1969
when revisionism became overtly anti-nationalist.
Roy Foster‚Ä™s Modern Ireland (London, 1988) has been described by Tim Pat Coogan as ‚Ęthe bible‚Ä™
of revisionism.
Maley, ‚ĘNationalism‚Ä™, in Ireland in Proximity, 20‚Ä“5; Christine Kinealy, ‚ĘBeyond Revisionism:
Reassessing the Irish Famine‚Ä™, History Ireland, 4(4) (Winter 1995).
B. Bradshaw, ‚ĘNationalism and Historical Scholarship in Modern Ireland‚Ä™, in C. Brady (ed.),
Interpreting Irish History: The Debate on Historical Revisionism 1938‚Ä“1994 (Dublin, 1994), 191‚Ä“216.
K. Whelan, ‚ĘCome All You Staunch Revisionists: Towards a Post-revisionist Agenda for Irish
History‚Ä™, Irish Reporter, 2 (1991), 23‚Ä“6.
Revisionists generally claim that the Famine was inevitable, not a watershed in Irish development,
and that the British government‪s response was adequate.
Christine Kinealy, ‚ĘWas Ireland a Colony? The Evidence of the Great Famine‚Ä™, in McDonough
(ed.), Was Ireland a Colony?, 48‚Ä“67.
Ballantyne, ‚ĘSinews of Empire‚Ä™, in Was Ireland a Colony?, 145. See also, Virginia Crossman,
‚ĘIntroduction‚Ä™, in Ireland in Proximity, 9.
At home with Empire: the example of Ireland 83
a united kingdom?
Even before the nineteenth century, the political relationship between
Ireland and Britain differed from colonial relationships elsewhere, both in
origin and in day-to-day governance. Since the Henrician Reformation in
the sixteenth century, the Anglican Church had been the state
church in Ireland: a situation that was upheld by the Act of Union. The
Penal Laws, introduced after 1790, disadvantaged both Catholics and
nonconformists.30 After 1728, also, only Protestants could vote or be
members of the Dublin parliament, making it unrepresentative of over 80
per cent of the population. At the end of the eighteenth century, most of
the Penal Laws were removed, although Catholics remained unable to sit
in parliament until 1829. Not all Irish Protestants supported the invol-
vement of Britain in Irish affairs. A movement for more political inde-
pendence at the end of the eighteenth century was led by Irish
Protestants. The resulting ‚ĘGrattan‚Ä™s Parliament‚Ä™ came into existence in
1782. Catholics could neither vote nor sit in it and Westminster retained
executive powers. Inspired by events in France, a Protestant lawyer,
Theobald Wolfe Tone, formed the United Irishmen, which demanded
the establishment of a democratic, non-sectarian Irish Republic. Draconian
political repression by the British government precipitated a series of
uprisings throughout Ireland in 1798.
The 1798 rebellion was brutally suppressed, resulting in approximately
30,000 Irish casualties. The British government then acted swiftly to
change the political relationship with Ireland, no longer trusting the
Protestant parliament to govern the country. The abolition of the Irish
legislature was regarded as essential to safeguard not only Britain, but also
her empire. Thus, the Irish Lord Lieutenant, Lord Cornwallis, declared
unequivocally that ‚Ęwithout a union the British empire must be dis-
solved‚Ä™.31 This view was endorsed by the Prime Minister, William Pitt,
who argued that a union would make Ireland ‚Ęmore free and more
happy‚Ä™, but, more importantly, it would ‚Ęmake the empire more powerful
and secure‚Ä™.32 When members of the Irish parliament refused to vote
themselves out of existence, the British government combined incentives
with threats to achieve its desired end. Consequently, on 1 January 1801,
the United Kingdom was born. Disappointment immediately followed.

For example, Catholics could not purchase or inherit property, build schools or churches, own a
gun, vote, join the professions, etc.
Patrick M. Geoghegan, The Irish Act of Union: A Study in High Politics, 1798‚Ä“1801 (Dublin, 1999), 85.
Ibid., 95.
Pitt had promised that Catholic Emancipation (the right to sit in par-
liament) and state subsidies to Catholic priests would follow but, con-
fronted with George III‪s opposition, he backed down: an inauspicious
start to the new relationship and an early reminder of the uneven balance
of power. Nor were the king‚Ä™s interventions over. In 1807 he ‚Ędissolved a
parliament less than one year old so as to increase the strength of a
ministry hostile to Catholic Emancipation‚Ä™.33 Clearly, Catholics were to
remain subordinate within the association.
The Act of Union completed the process of creating a unitary British
state, centred on England.34 In 1801, 100 Irish MPs (105 after 1832) entered
the imperial parliament, where they contributed to policy-making for
Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Empire. Throughout the nineteenth
century, British politics was dominated by interactions with Ireland and, by
the 1880s, the two main political parties were distinguished and separated
by their attitude to Irish independence. Irish issues also deÔ¬Āned or
destroyed the careers of politicians as diverse as William Pitt, Robert Peel,
William Gladstone, Randolph Churchill and David Lloyd George.
The paradoxical nature of Ireland‪s relationship with Britain after 1801
was evident in the legislation passed by the imperial parliament on issues
such as poor relief, education, and law and order, when Ireland was
treated distinctively from other parts of the United Kingdom, suggesting
that her colonial status had not ended. Some historians have suggested
that in areas of social legislation, Ireland ‚Ęfunctioned as a testing ground
for new legislation and systems of government‚Ä™.35 The varied approach
was evident in the Irish Poor Law of 1838, which treated Irish paupers
more harshly than their counterparts elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
No right to relief existed in Ireland and the poor could receive assistance
only inside the newly built workhouses.36 These restrictions had sombre
implications during the Famine, when many workhouses became full and
no alternative relief could be offered.37
Even after 1801, there were attempts to subjugate Irish culture and
identity, and to impose the values of the metropole. The 1831 Education Act
provided for all instruction to be carried out through the English language,
David Cannadine, ‚ĘThe British Monarchy, c. 1820‚Ä“1977‚Ä™, in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger
(eds.), The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge, 1983), 108.
Hechter, Internal Colonialism, describes it as ‚Ęinternal colonialism‚Ä™ although his work has been
criticised, notably by Welsh historians.
Ballantyne, ‚ĘSinews of Empire‚Ä™, in Was Ireland a Colony?, 158.
1 and 2 Vic. c. 56. An Act for the more Effectual Relief of the Destitute Poor in Ireland (1838 Poor
Law Act).
Christine Kinealy, This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845‚Ä“52 (Dublin, 1994 and 2006), 106‚Ä“35.
At home with Empire: the example of Ireland 85
and while the school curriculum included ‚ĘBritish poets‚Ä™, neither Irish
history nor the Irish language were taught. Charles Gavan Duffy, a founder
of the Nation newspaper claimed in 1842 that while British institutions
and heroes were promoted in Ireland, the state ‚Ędeliberately starved or
suppressed‚Ä™ Irish culture.38 Consequently, the Nation aimed to instil in Irish
people a sense of their historical, cultural and intellectual heritage.
Politically, Irish people remained disadvantaged as a consequence of
franchise restrictions. The granting of Catholic Emancipation in 1829,
while giving Catholics the right to sit in parliament, simultaneously dis-
enfranchised 40-shilling freeholders, who were mainly Catholic. In the wake
of the 1832 Reform Act, while one in seven men in England could vote, the
Ô¬Āgure was one in twenty in Ireland.39 In 1840, following an attempt to
further limit the Irish franchise, O‪Connell renewed his agitation for repeal
of the Act of Union on the grounds that Ireland had been denied ‚Ęan
extension of the franchise and full equality of rights within Britain‚Ä™.40
Regardless of her new constitutional position, Ireland continued to be
politically turbulent, thus occupying a disproportionate amount of par-
liamentary time. Throughout the nineteenth century, Irish politics was
dominated by the demand for self-government. Yet varieties of nation-
alism coexisted, ranging from the republicanism of the United Irishmen
and the Fenians, to the constitutional methods favoured by Daniel
O‪Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell. The latter approach favoured
Ireland remaining within the Empire and enjoyed majority support. The
unwillingness of the British parliament to allow even a limited form of
Home Rule contributed to the persistence of republican nationalism,
which was manifested through the rebellions of 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916.
Nationalist agitation, and its counterpart loyalist and unionist activ-
ities, not only kept Irish issues to the forefront in Westminster, but meant
that there was a high military and police presence in Ireland. Further-
more, the Irish constabulary force established in 1814 was, from the
outset, armed, unlike police in the rest of the United Kingdom. Gen-
erally, in the area of law and order, Ireland was treated more harshly, with
special measures being introduced, to supplement the existing criminal
justice system.41 While political agitation in Britain was mostly dealt with
Charles Gavan Duffy, Four Years of Irish History (London, 1883), 82.
Kinealy, Disunited Kingdom, passim.
Journal of the British Empire, 17 July 1840.
Insurrection Acts were in force in 1796‚Ä“1802, 1807‚Ä“10, 1814‚Ä“18 and 1822‚Ä“5. In 1833 (because of the
‚ĘTithe War‚Ä™) the Suppression of Disturbances Act was introduced, providing for trial by military
courts rather than magistrates. Similar measures remained in force, intermittently, up to the
under common law, in Ireland emergency legislation was introduced, in
the form of draconian coercion Acts.42 Additionally, Habeas Corpus was
suspended between 1796 and 1806, between 1848 and 1849, and again from
1866 to 1869, each time coinciding with renewed republican agitation.
Full economic integration with Britain never materialised, and Ireland
continued to play a subordinate role within the relationship, functioning
as a peripheral region that provided cheap labour and cheap raw materials
to the metropole.43 Since the 1780s Britain had depended on Ireland as a
main supplier of corn and, by the eve of the Great Famine, was receiving
enough Irish corn to feed two million people annually. Vast amounts of
other foodstuffs were also imported from Ireland.44 How could a country
with such a massive agricultural surplus be plunged into a devastating
famine, as occurred after 1845?

famine: an imperial calamity?
Within Ô¬Āfty years of the Act of Union being passed, a famine occurred in
Ireland that was unprecedented in its longevity and impact. It resulted in
the death of over one million people and the emigration of approximately
two million, reducing the Irish population by almost one-third. The
longer-term impact of the crisis was equally devastating, with the popu-
lation dropping to only four and a half million by 1901. Neither the wealth
of the United Kingdom nor the resources of the British Empire protected
the Irish poor from the destructive impact of seven years of food shortages.
Consequently, a famine of acute severity occurred, not merely at the centre
of the Empire, but within a constituent part of the United Kingdom. The
situation in Ireland dominated parliamentary debates between 1845 and
1851, while the arrival of famine refugees in cities such as Liverpool and
Manchester added to the existing social problems of these areas, and
increased ethnic tensions and anti-Catholic hostility.45
The British government‪s response to the Famine demonstrated that
Ireland was not an equal partner within the United Kingdom and that the
needs of the Irish were of less importance than those of people in the
The government responded to the repeal agitation with the Crime and Outrage Act (1847), which
was regularly renewed and, in 1848, habeas corpus was suspended. Other measures included the
Prevention of Crime Act (1882‚Ä“5), the Criminal Law, and the Procedure Act (1887), a permanent


ŮÚū. 3
(‚ŮŚ„Ó 12)