Colin Holmes, professor of History at the University of Sheffield. From your studies how far do you agree that Britain has been a tolerant nation? Everybody will interpret a situation in the past according to their own particular view or experience. Colin Holmes believes that Britain has not been particularly tolerant of all immigrants through time. He is a professor of history and has obviously studied the past in detail. This statement is unlikely to be biased as Holmes has knowledge of the past and has researched into both sides of the story.
In this essay I will analyse events during the twentieth century to decide for myself how far I agree with Colin Holmes' interpretation. The first wave of immigration to Britain was of the Jews and came in 1880. Most of the 60,000 Jews living in Britain in 1880 had been born there. After 1880 the Anglo-Jewish community in Britain experienced an increase as large numbers of Jews were immigrating to Britain. Most of these Jews were from Russia. This is since the Russian government were "playing the Jewish card. " This was using the Jews for political aims.
For example, using them as scapegoats by blaming them when things went wrong. This became worse after the assassination of Tsar Alexander the second. These reasons for immigration are supported by Source A and B. A census of England shows that in 1880 there was a mere 60,000 Jews in the U. K whereas by 1921, forty one years later the figure had been increased by five times. After 1880, thousands of Jewish immigrants arrived in Britain to a mixed reception. Some English Jews disapproved of the newcomers; others helped them on their arrival.
The immigrants settled in big cities especially London. Many other English people blamed the Jews for adding to overcrowding and competition for work. Jewish immigrants headed for the large cities of London, Leeds and Manchester. This is since in these cities there was the greatest opportunity for work. In addition, these cities had well established Jewish communities. In particular the Jewish immigrants became concentrated in the areas of Whitechapel in London, Strangeways in Manchester and Leyland in Leeds. By the beginning of the twentieth century these areas had become rundown.
As Jewish immigrants did no have a lot of money due to spending on travel, food or shelter, they had to seek poor and overcrowded accommodations. As there was already a shortage of housing, the cost of housing increased and the sanitations and availability decreased. This is where the media twisted the minds of people and caused further resentment. Jews were connected with high rents, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions. However they were not to blame as Jews could not help where they lived. Most could only afford cheap and run-down properties.
The few Jews who could afford to buy a house were blamed for high rents. This led to problems within the Jewish community. Anglo-Jews were also worried and disliked the large numbers of Jewish immigrants. This is because the Jewish immigrants gave the Jewish community a bad reputation. In fact the Jewish Boar of Guardians tried to persuade Jews not to leave Russia, Austria and Romania in the first place. In 1884 they paid for advertisements to be placed in newspapers abroad warning that Jewish immigrants could expect no help or charity in the first six months of their stay in England.
However, other Anglo-Jews, such as Simon Cohen tried to help newly arrived, poor Jews. He faced the disapproval of the Jewish Board of Guardians. Cohen set up a hostel in Whitechapel, despite attempts by the Board of Guardians to have it closed down. However Cohen received support from some wealthy English Jews who disagreed with the Board of Guardians. The government responded to public concern about the number of Jewish immigrants by passing a law that controlled the number of Jewish immigrants by passing a law that controlled the numbers of Jewish people allowed into Britain after 1906.
The Alien act was passed and became law on 10th August 1905. It appeared to stand to stop those without money or a way of supporting themselves entering Britain. However, if the immigrant is seeking admission to avoid persecution or punishment on religious or political grounds, permission to enter shall no be refused on the ground that he does not have enough money or will be a burden on others. The Aliens Act of 1905 had a large impact on immigration. Since the Liberal home secretaries operated the law, they were generous in spirit and gave the benefit of the doubt to the immigrants.
However many immigrants were sent back on the ships that bought them since they could not state things that were important. This Act shows us that the British government were not as tolerant as they are characterised to be. However the situation did get worse for immigrants. During the First World War some people were worried about the loyalty of British Jews and the effects of further immigration into Britain. This led to the passing of a strict immigration law in 1919. This was the Aliens Restrictions Act in December 1919. This harsh law to control immigration meant that entry could be refused by an immigration officer.
Immigration officers had to make sure that immigrants had the means to support themselves and were medically fit. This reduced poor working class Jews immigrating into Britain to almost stopping. This again is signs of intolerance to immigrants. There were two main reasons why people came to Britain after 1945. They came either as refuges from war in Europe or they came from the British colonies and Commonwealth to find work. At first the British Government welcomed both these groups, mainly because there was a labour shortage in Britain after the war and during the 1950s.
The largest of the refugee groups to settle in Britain after 1945 was polish. Many Poles were already in Britain when the war ended. After Hitler invaded and defeated Poland in 1939, one million Poles left Poland. Many came to Britain to continue to fight against Germany. When Poland became communist in 1945, many of them decided to stay in Britain. After the war the British Government also encouraged workers from new commonwealth countries of the Caribbean, India, Pakistan and the Republic of Ireland to immigrate to Britain to work.
Advertisements were sent out for many different workers including nurses, doctors, bus drivers, cleaners and builders. Due to the Labour Shortage The British Nationality Act (1948) was written. The British Nationality Act (1948) said that all people living in Britain, British Colonies and the Commonwealth have equal rights of citizenship. The Windrush was the immigration of many West Indians to Britain. The Wind rush was the name of the boat that brought the West Indians to Britain. In source D we see how a West Indian felt as to why he came to Britain.
However when he came to Britain there was a different situation. Many of the people who settled in Britain between 1948 and 1960 had high expectations of their new life but were soon disillusioned by the racial stereotyping and discrimination which they experienced. Racial discrimination affected all areas of their life, including finding work and accommodation. For example one advertisement for accommodation read; "ROOM to LET/ NO COLOURED/ NIGGERS," another read; ROOM to LET/ NO Blacks/ NO Dogs/ No Irish. " This was ignored by the government.
However after many incidents, such as the turban ban in Birmingham City Transport which led to the Sikhs to go on strike and proved successful in 1962 where the ban was lifted. These incidents were noticed and some people, such as Tom Driberg – Labour Party Chairperson, realised that the problem was not black people but white prejudice. This problem however was not solved by introducing laws that stopped racism, these incidents caused the government to introduce a new Act; the immigration Act (1962). This stated that From now on black, including black Asian, people would have to have an employment voucher before they could enter Britain.
Vouchers had a quota which meant that they were limited. The immigrant had to prove that they had a specialist skill or appropriate education and qualifications for Britain's needs. This shows that Britain was not tolerant in the first place as they were simply completing their labour shortage and once it was complete they felt that the immigrants were not needed. The Act that followed was The Commonwealth Immigration Act. This stated that Kenyan Asians with British passports were no longer allowed to enter the country, however a clause in the Act stated that entry to white Kenyans with British passports were allowed to enter Britain.
The main reason for this act to be passed was that the countries of West Africa had introduced an 'Africanisation policy' which meant that all foreigners, including Asians, were expelled from Africa. During the 1960s and 1970s there was an increase in both in racist incidents and racist organisations. Anti-racist organisations were formed and action was taken for civil rights. During these decades immigration became an election issue. Legislation was introduced that was intended to tackle racial discrimination.
This racism had a number of triggers. Firstly the White people felt that the Black and Asian communities were taking over as they were very concentrated. However this was not their fault as only a few areas allowed Black and Asian people to lease a flat. Black people also felt safer in numbers due to the large number of National Front members. The colour bar meant that Coloured people had to remain on the streets and socialise there. Many tenants did not allow the Black or Asian people to bring home guests or visitors.