The Enemy in Our Midst: Germans in Britain during the First World War

The Enemy in Our Midst: Germans in Britain during the First World War

The Enemy in Our Midst: Germans in Britain during the First World War

The Enemy in Our Midst: Germans in Britain during the First World War

Synopsis

The author charts the growth of the German community in Britain and dramatically details the story of its destruction under the intolerance which gripped the country during World War I.

Excerpt

Despite the enormous amount of interest aroused by the refugees who fled from the Nazis, the question of Germans in Britain before 1933 has never received sufficient attention. The reasons for this include the fact that the history of immigrants within British society remains understudied. Also, we might suggest, the popular view of Germans in the last hundred years is of persecutors rather than persecuted. This study will show that German minorities certainly did suffer. The fact that Germans formed a major immigrant community before 1918 makes it all the more surprising that they have not yet been sufficiently studied. Up to 1891 they constituted the largest national grouping within Britain and in 1911, when their numbers stood at 53,324 (together with 6,442 Germans who had become naturalised British subjects) they came second only to Russian Jews. However, as a consequence of the Great War this figure declined to just over 20,000.

One of the earliest studies (from 1923) of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German communities is C. R. Hennings' Deutsche in England. The next major works did not appear until the 1980s. Rosemary Ashton Little Germany, while outstanding in itself, leaves large gaps as it concentrates solely upon the small number of political refugees who entered Britain after the failure of the 1848 revolutions. Similarly, J. C. Bird Control of Enemy Alien Civilians in Great Britain 1914-1918 also has insufficiencies. The main one is that while it details the various measures which the government took to control Germans within Britain, it does not pay enough attention to the public hostility which played a major part in persuading the government to act. This is one of the central focuses of the present work together with the point that few immigrant communities in Britain have experienced the scale of hatred which the Germans endured during the Great War. This reason alone justifies the publication of this study, as does the size of the German community.

The book concentrates upon the reaction of British government and society towards the presence of a substantial enemy alien . . .

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