Foreign Influences: Take Away Great Britain's Long History of Welcoming Immigrants to Its Shores and We Would Find Ourselves Stripped of Much That Is Now Considered British

By Winder, Robert | Geographical, July 2004 | Go to article overview

Foreign Influences: Take Away Great Britain's Long History of Welcoming Immigrants to Its Shores and We Would Find Ourselves Stripped of Much That Is Now Considered British


Winder, Robert, Geographical


The tabloids often present immigration as a contemporary phenomenon. And it s true that it has been boosted by the ease of modern communications. Job ads in Manchester can be pored over in Harare and Bangalore on the day they are posted, and flights can be booked with a few keystrokes. But though it takes new forms, migration is an ancient story, one that has sculpted British society as surely as water and wind have groomed its landscape. Nothing could be more natural: early humans were nomadic, drifting with the seasons in search of easier food or a kinder climate. What we see today is merely the continuation of this ancient habit.

Much of what we see as typically British is the fruit of such migrations. The ancient British bloodstream, matured by repeated conquest, is a mongrel brew from Iberia, Bohemia, Germany, Rome, Scandinavia and France. The Normans brought the castles and cathedrals that lie at the heart of our classic scenery, planted the grassroots of agribusiness in their monasteries and installed a baronial class system that underscored British life for nearly 1,000 years. They put the language through finishing school by rubbing French polish onto the awkward Celtic-Roman-German-Danish tongue and turning it into English.

In the Middle Ages, religious conflict sent Protestants fleeing west in search of a haven as the first refugies. In Elizabethan times, Flemish craftsmen lit the touchpaper of the first industrial revolution, turning England from a sheep farmer into a textile worker. French Huguenots brought business acumen, military expertise and mercantile wit. As industrious midwives to the birth of British capitalism, they embodied a potent new idea: the Protestant work ethic.

As the Empire expanded, British capitalism rollicked along on the back of cheap labour provided by African slaves, Irish and Italian peasants, and Asiatic seamen, or Lascars. At home, the tone was set by Hanoverian monarchs who brought a German flavour to British culture, giving upper-class taste a whiff of horses, cards and dinner after the opera. Even in Victorian times, the royal family spoke German at home, while bestowing on its people the 'traditional' British Christmas and opening the nation up to the German entrepeneurs, bankers and teachers who helped reinforce its supremacy in business and finance.

Hungry migrants from Ireland, Italy and the colonies continued to put their shoulders to the wheel of British commerce, providing the raw material--cheap labour--without which capitalism couldn't thrive. And, at the end of the 19th century, some 120,000 Jewish refugees from Russia landed in eastern ports and turned shuns into business turbines. Michael Marks came as a 17-year-old refugee from Russian Poland before setting up a stall in Leeds. "Don't Ask the Price," he said. "It's a Penny." The stall grew into Marks and Spencer, and the man himself became St Michael, the tasteful patron saint of the take-it-back-if-it-doesn't-fit jumper.

Migration from the Commonwealth during the post-war period is the logical reverberation of Britain's own adventures overseas. European imperialism was a terrific engine of migration, uprooting and mixing the world's population with scant regard for the consequences. Some 350 million people of African descent live outside Africa; 250 million people of European descent live outside Europe; nearly 30 million people of Chinese descent live outside China; and almost ten million South Asians live elsewhere.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Foreign Influences: Take Away Great Britain's Long History of Welcoming Immigrants to Its Shores and We Would Find Ourselves Stripped of Much That Is Now Considered British
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.