Migration Control in the North Atlantic World: The Evolution of State Practices in Europe and the United States from the French Revolution to the Inter-War Period

By Andreas Fahrmeir; Olivier Faron et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
British Nationality Policy as a
Counter-Revolutionary Strategy
During the Napoleonic Wars
The Emergence of Modern
Naturalization Regulations

Margrit Schulte Beerbühl

The French Revolution marked a turning point in the history of nationality. It created a new notion of nationality in the world at large. In France (as well as in the United States of America) members of the state were no longer defined as subjects but as citizens (Brubaker 1992: 49). In Britain, however, there was no sharp break in the history of nationality: nationals continued to be defined as subjects until 1948.1 Nevertheless, the period of the French Wars brought about important changes in Britain as well. The first immigration laws were passed and although the British government introduced no comprehensive naturalization law during this period, naturalization policy changed in important ways.

This paper focuses on the development of British naturalization policy between the outbreak of the French Revolution and 1818, when a new naturalization law was passed declaring naturalizations undesirable. Anne Dummett and Clive Parry have already pinpointed the French Wars as a watershed in the history of naturalization in Britain. New requirements and new restrictions developed which paved the way for the naturalization law of 1844 (Dummett and Nicol 1990: 85f.; Parry 1954: 84). Nonetheless no detailed historical research into the nature of these changes has been conducted to date.

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