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

By Panikos Panayi | Go to book overview

2
Measures Against Enemy Aliens

One of the most well-known generalisations about war is that the first casualty is truth. But just as important a casualty is the liberal idea of freedom or the whole principle of laissez-faire. This happened in the First World War both in Britain and in the other belligerent states. A. J. P. Taylor has described the situation in Britain before 1914:

Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country forever without a passport or any sort of permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without informing the police. Unlike countries of the European continent, the state did not require its citizens to perform military service.

Income tax remained at a modest level and the state intervened in public life in the interests of public health and safety at work. Although state involvement had increased during the Edwardian years, in fields such as basic social services and national insurance, the First World War necessitated government intervention in the lives of individuals on an unprecedented scale. Nevertheless, most of the new measures were accepted for two reasons. Firstly, despite the relative lack of state control prior to 1914, the mere fact that it had begun to increase also meant that it had started to gain acceptance. Secondly, the government acted in the interests of national security.1 This latter point proves fundamental to the understanding of this chapter because the anti-aliens used it to persuade the

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1
A. J. P. Taylor, English History 1914-45 ( Harmondsworth, 1985 reprint), p. 25; Arthur Marwick, The Deluge ( London, 1986 reprint), pp. 152-7; John Stevenson , British Society 1914-45 ( Harmondsworth, 1984), p. 58.

-45-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations Used in References x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Victorian and Edwardian Background 9
  • 1 - The Victorian and Edwardian Background 9
  • Part I - The Official Reaction 43
  • 2 - Measures Against Enemy Aliens 45
  • 3 - Internment and Repatriation 70
  • 4 - The Experience of Internment 99
  • 5 - Measures Against German Business Interests 132
  • Part II - The Popular Reaction 151
  • 6 - Anti-German Sentiment: Spy-Fever, Anti-Alienism and the Hidden Hand 153
  • 7 - Anti-German Manifestations: Witch-Hunts, Boycotts and Movements 184
  • 8 - Anti-German Riots 223
  • 9 - Support for Enemy Aliens 259
  • Part III - Conclusion 281
  • Conclusion 283
  • Bibliography 292
  • Index 303
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