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My task is to explain why people chose to immigrate to Britain, with reference to the period 1880 to the present day.
Britain has been Multicultural for hundreds of years. There are the diverse cultures and languages of the people of Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England. Britain’s links with the commonwealth countries of the Caribbean, Anglophone Africa, Cyprus, Australia, New Zealand and the Indian subcontinent were established through trade and subsequent conquest and colonization. Around five per cent of Britain’s present population are from ethnic minorities. “Multicultural” can be a controversial term, associated with various ideas about racial and cultural identities, cultural, diversity and difference, and policies and practices in schools and local government authorities.
Since ancient times people have been moving to Britain and settling there. These immigrants have all made a change to Britain as a whole. There are many reasons for immigration, some of which being wars, famine, draught, economic changes, lack of facilities, religious restraints, prejudice, discrimination or even as refugees.
Since the seventeenth century Jews had lived in Britain and had soon become a vital part of British life, including the social, political and economic life of Britain. Throughout the nineteenth century a minority of Jews continued to migrate to Britain, with many Jews even being born there. However after the welcoming of 1880, the minority of Jews already living there (Anglo-Jewish) experienced a sudden flood of Jews into Britain.
In 1881 the Russian Jews were held responsible for the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. Many Jews now became certain that it was time to leave and start a new life in a Western country. Many moved to Britain knowingly there was already a secure successful community of Jews there.
The Jewish immigrants were condemned by some English Jews whilst others welcomed them with open arms. On the other hand the English people blamed the Jews for the overcrowding in Britain and also for making it difficult to look for jobs and work.
The Jews settled in the large cities of London, Leeds and Manchester. These cities had a large population of Jews who were hoped to be supported by the Russian Jews, there was also a great opportunity of work here. However the Jews had to live in the poorer, overcrowding areas of these cities. Despite the overcrowding and poor living conditions, the house rent was high due to the shortage of housing. The rent along with lack of jobs and living conditions were all causes of racism and injustice against the Jews.
However most Jews lived in the poorer areas, as this was all they could afford. Some wealthy Jews took action and built blocks of flats.
Due to the immigration of the Jews, before 1881 British inhabitants expanded at a rate of 4% per year, after 1881 the population increased 10% every year. However the Jews that had come all settled in the East end, thus making this area concentrated with the number of Jews. This worried some of the Anglo-Jewish community for many reasons. It made the Jews very visible; the Jewish people already living in England were disturbed regarding the influence that so many Jews would have on the good interaction built up by the Jews already living in England with the English people. The Jews were already very different in their traditions, etiquettes and political affairs than that of the British Jews. Soon the Jews became news.
The type of work the Jews chose to do – in tailoring and footwear – they chose to do it with Jews who could speak Yiddish (a Jewish language), and who understood their religious needs. The work they chose relied on their existing skills or involved skills that could be learned quickly and had a number of simple recurring procedures. All the work could be done in small grounds, such as houses, cellars e.t.c. The work was done by a small number of people. The situation in such work areas was objectionable. Work hours could also be varied according to the religious calendar.
The Jews entered England at a time of rising redundancy and therefore were held responsible by the legislator of challenging with the English taking into account the few jobs which were obtainable. The idea of the immigrant Jews and sweating (the practice of overworking and underpaying workers in cramped, ill-lit and unhealthy conditions), became associated in the minds of many English people.
The people of England had many views of the Jews. A negative impression of the Jewish immigrants is that they caused overcrowding, working in unhygienic conditions and breathing an atmosphere of wool particles containing dangerous dyes. The flush was also so outlandish to the laypeople that they had not yet learnt how to pull the chain so as to wash out and clear the toilet. However a positive impression is gained by other inhabitants that they soon became successful and praised them of their intelligence.
Most British people commiserated with the Jews but because of the numbers and celebrity of Russian Jewish immigrants, the attitude of people to the Jewish immigrants began to revolutionize.
The ‘alien question’, soon became the subject in the British politics. The ‘Alien question’ was of three parts being that some individuals sensed that a law was essential to determine who could colonize in Britain, The aliens became a factor to the sweating matter, and some also reasoned that it was the aliens who pushed up the rents of houses. Soon later a pressure group, the British Brothers’ league was structured, which was to confine alien immigrants.
With all these pressures the Conservative Government allotted a Royal Commission on Alien immigration. A new law was soon primed on the Royal Commission’s work. The Bill of 1904 would eliminate as undesirable, ‘persons of extremely bad character, or without perceptible means of support or likely to become a public charge. However the shipping companies who transported the immigrants also promoted the Government to gain their support and the liberals also strongly opposed this bill being passed. Due to such opposition the bill was withdrawn.
However the Conservatives that the new law would promote voters especially at a time when the next general election was in a years time, so the Aliens Bill was put back into the Parliament in 1905, and this time the Liberals also never stood in its way as they knew a new law be popular. On 10 August 1905 the bill became law, however if ‘the immigrant is seeking admission to avoid prosecution or punishment on religious or political grounds, permission to enter shall not be refused on the ground that he does not have enough money or will be a burden on others.’
An extract from the Aliens Act (1905)
The conservatives lost the election in 1906, and so the Liberal Home Secretaries operated the law. To start with many immigrants were sent back as they failed to state things which would grant them entry, therefore the number of Jews coming to Britain fell until 1909. However after 1909 the figure of immigrants returned back to the normal figure of 5000 a year.
Many Jews welcomed the act or refused to condemn it. The Jews who had just immigrated t6o the East End of London reacted in much the same way as they feared overcrowding and competition of work. The Anglo-Jewish community had stated that the Jews settling in one place would bring attention to their dress, language and manner. They also warned that in fifteen years time the progeny of today’s refugees would be the great bulk of England’s population, and therefore bring shame to the community. To deal with this prospect the education of the children of the Immigrated Jews was encouraged.
The leaders of the Jewish community were very anxious and supportive in the fist world war.
In the last ten years of the nineteenth century a new movement was put into action called Zionism, this was in favour to gain a Jewish homeland. The favoured place for this was in the ancestral Jewish home, Palestine. However the Anglo-Jewish community opposed the idea of a homeland as they never wanted all their relationships with the British to be gone down the drain. They wanted to be seen as a community loyal to the British and religious not as a people without a homeland.
In 1917 the British army invaded Palestine which was then under Turkish rule. The British government issued a statement that broadly supported the creation of a homeland. At t6he same time the British issued another statement which promised the Arabs inde3pendence from the Turks. This was to win the support of the Jews in America and to involve America in the war. Empty promises were also made to the Arabs to involve them in the war too on Britain’s side.
From 1914, the anti-German hysteria that swept the country did not distinguish between Jew and German.
Criticism to the Jewish immigrants centred on how many of the new immigrants joined up to fight. The Anglo-Jewish wanted to fight for their new country. Press reports of Russian Jews moving from London to the countryside to avoid the Zeppelin raids added to prejudice towards the Jews.
The Balfour Declaration brought attention to Zionism in Britain which made people believe that the Jews were ungrateful to their adapted country – Britain.
The Russian Revolution also helped form the views of the British against the Jewish immigrants and were portrayed by the newspaper as communists.
The Aliens Restrictions Act was passed in 1914 which as a result had a huge influence on Jewish immigrants. Zionism was too now weakened whilst prejudice against the Jews increased. Using the powers of 1919 almost all the poor working-class immigrants went to decline.
In the 1920s many Jews had now gained a higher position within the British society and were a more prosperous community. Due to this prosperity the Jews now started to move out of the East end of London.
As Britain saw the beginning of the Depression years one Labour Politician was Sir Oswald Mosley. He resigned from Labour in 1930 as many of his ideas of how to solve the problem of unemployment were rejected. He set up his own new party in 1931 known as the New Party. Mosley, in 1932 created the British Union Fascists (BUF). Mosley saw the socialists and the communists as a danger. Mosley also enjoyed support from the ‘Daily Mirror’ owner, Lord Rothermere, through which he made sure that it reported favourably of the BUF.
In the beginning the BUF were not anti-Semitic, but later in 1934 the BUF policy changed and now Jewish people were no longer allowed to be members of the BUF.
Throughout the year 1934 Jewish people were attacked and provoked. The Jews were all advised not to do anything against the law thus not to be seen as lawbreakers.
On 4 October 1936 the BUF planned a march through the East End of London and planned to listen to Mosley speak at intervals. Jewish Trade Unionists and communists arranged a blockade to the march with barricades. As a result the BUF had to abandon the march from the Tower of London to Victoria Park in Hackney.
Immediately after the event of Cable Street, support for the BUF grew. However in the long term the BUF were in decline. Mosley’s attempts to try and stir up violence towards the Jews were much criticised. The Government tried to stop this by passing the Incitement to Disaffection Act in November 1934 and a new public Order Act in 1936 which affected the holding of marches. However the BUF did not win any local or general election seats and as a result Mosley was imprisoned from 1940 to 1943.
The event of Cable Street showed that there were divisions among the Jews themselves as thousands of working-class Jews rejected the calls of their leaders to stay off the streets.
This event also proved that extreme parties were also a threat to law and order, and as a result was acted quickly to in order to stop their influence.
In 1945 when the Second World War ended, Europe had changed. Millions of people had lost their homes etc. Towns and cities were devastated. Countries in Eastern Europe were taken over by the communist government with very different ideas about equality and freedom to those governments in the West. Many people in Eastern Europe did not want to live under a communist government. As a result of these wars millions of people became refugees.
Many people were already in Britain when the war ended. After Hitler invaded Poland many Poles left Poland and many came to Britain, and some came to Britain only to fight against Germany. When Poland became communist in 1945, many of the Poles decided to stay in Britain.
Some of the refugees from Europe came to Britain in search of a new life and were welcomed by the British as Britain needed to be re-built after the devastation of the war. Large numbers of workers were needed especially in mining, engineering, agriculture, transport and building. This was due to many British men and women being killed, injured etc. During the war many women were encouraged to work but after were encouraged to stay at home. This meant that more workers were needed to replace them. Britain was made worse by many British people moving to the Old Common Wealth countries.
During the Second World War the British Empire was very important in the war, as these people had raw materials, people industries etc.
After the Second World War, these people from British colonies were encouraged to come to settle in Britain. This was because Britain’s post war labour shortage could not be solved by refugees alone. British companies advertised in the New Commonwealth Countries for workers.
All citizens of the British colonies were given the right to settle in Britain. Almost one quarter of the world’s population was allowed to settle in Britain due to its great empire. In 1948 the British Nationality Act was passed which gave citizens of the British colonies and of the commonwealth equal rights of citizenship in Britain as those people who had been born and bread in Britain. After the second World War many Caribbean’s emigrated to Britain. This was partly because they had fought for this country and others were just curious to see the land they had fought for.
At first immigration from the Caribbean to Britain was slow but soon after a hurricane in Jamaica in 1951 immigration increased. Another cause of the rise in immigration was that the USA had set strict rules on immigration from the Caribbean and so people who wanted to migrate had to look for other options of where to migrate to.
Many people who lived in cities were well paid and did not want to do jobs like cleaning etc and so immigrants from the colonies were encouraged to do this type of work. Many West Indians were welcomed as nurses and the Caribbean’s settled in Britain and so the later arrivals were mainly wives, children and parents of those people who had settled in Britain.
Britain was portrayed to these people who migrated to Britain as being the ‘mother-country,’ kind, caring and powerful. Upon migrating, many of these people were surprised to see the amount of filth and dirt in Britain. Britain was not as wealthy as they had expected.
However people who had come to Britain to fight in the Second World War were welcomed warm heartedly, but on the other hand when these people returned to Britain due to labour shortages, the treatment they received was completely contradictory to what they had received at the Second World War.
When Queen Victoria came to throne, Britain had the smallest empire with the least territory. Queen Victoria’s death however, left behind a greater territory approximately ruling 500 million people. British ideas were of being superior to any other race, thus inferior.
Britain used ‘adverts’ to target many people and to spread its ideas of unity and loyalty to the people of Britain.
Between 1945 and 1968, important changes were made to who had the right of citizenship in Britain. The rights of citizenship had been restricted by 1968. The changes happened partly because of racist attitudes and partly due to changing economic changes.
Since the Second World War the pattern of migration into and out of Britain has changed. This has been due to changes in the law, wars, abuses of human rights, poverty, famine, and the formation of the European Union. Since 1990 the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Britain have also changed and become a controversial political issue.
There was less immigration after the Second World War of the British citizenships had been born in the colonies of commonwealth. The British Nationality Act and the immigration Laws made it difficult to enter Britain. However immigration from the European Union was allowed however immigration from poor undeveloped countries such as the Caribbean were not allowed to set work permits in Britain.
Overtime people had come to Britain as refugees and also left in search of refuge such as the Jews.
Nevertheless, people have migrated to Britain due top wars in their own countries leaving millions of people homeless, in search of jobs, famine in their homelands, in search of a better life, education, medication, for marriage purposes, persecution in their country and some have also come to Britain as refugees and even as asylum seekers.
In conclusion, the reasons for the entry of millions of people into Britain during the years from 1880 to the recent day are extremely complicated, revolving around a complex of economic, political. Short term, underlying and personal push and pull factors. The immigration of any individual minority includes a set of factors peculiar to itself. In some cases, such as the mid-nineteenth century, Irish push factors played an overwhelming role, as the famine literally forced the people off the land. However the geographical proximity of Britain and the open door policy towards immigration played a fundamental role in attracting the Irish.
“The potato crop failed completely and one million Irish died of disease starvation. As a result about 200,000 people emigrated, about half of them to Britain.”
Between 1870 and 1914 over 200,000 Jewish people arrived in Britain. Most of these Jews lived in East London where living conditions were bad. It was easy for them to fin d work (for untrained people e.g. clothing and furniture) but were low paid and worked long hours. Yet many Jews visited the synagogue and were free to practice their religion.
The entry of immigrants to Britain did not happen steadily but in waves. Some periods had more immigrants flooding into Britain than others.
The media have recognised that Britain has become a multi society and presents some positive images of Blacks and Asians. People of Asian origin have become the most successful businessmen in Britain.
In short, there have been both continuities and new developments in the history of immigrant minorities in Britain before and after 1945. Because of the more complete documentation after 1945, we can form a fuller picture of the contemporary situation. However, we can make the following assertions for the whole course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. First, Britain has witnessed for a complex of reasons, the constant entry of a wide variety of immigrants, who have played an important role in the development of the economy. Second, these groups have varied in size, social composition, and gender make-up, but they are part of British capitalist class society, not distinct from it. Finally, ethnicity has developed to a great extent, especially amongst larger minorities.
However, as a different view, in conclusion, I also say that social scientists have found it very difficult to explain one of the most popular methods of explanation is to use a ‘push – pull’ model which distinguishes between the ‘push’ of economic necessity in the migrants home society and the ‘pull’ of opportunity from abroad. The difficulty with this approach is that it obscures the inherent complexity of population movements and, as some critics have pointed out, it often treats the subjects as if they were automatons reacting to forces beyond their control. Ceri Peach, in his study of West Indian migration to Britain (1968), warns against relying too much on ‘push’ determinism.
The movements he describes did not take place during periods of economic depression in the Caribbean and they were not correlated to high rates of population growth. Peach concludes that there is ‘strong evidence for the view that (West Indian) migration was reacting not to internal conditions, but to a sing external stimulus’ – namely the demand for labour in Britain (1968:93). This conclusion might be satisfactory if one wishes to leave the analysis of the highest levels of abstraction, but the migrants themselves rarely accept generalisations of this nature. Furthermore, other Historians have clearly demonstrated that it is impossible to categorise all of the relevant factors as either ‘push’ or ‘pull’.