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

By Panikos Panayi | Go to book overview

6
Anti-German Sentiment: Spy-Fever,
Anti-Alienism and the Hidden Hand

The hostility displayed towards Germans during the Great War became more intense and widespread than could have been imagined from its pre-1914 phase. It now affected vast sections of British society as intolerance became the dominant ethos, sweeping away the traditional British liberalism which had characterised the Victorian period but had begun to decline during the Edwardian years. This chapter will concentrate on the various forms of anti- German sentiment put forward by the press and members of the Radical Right.

Initially, this took the form of 'spy-fever', i.e. a suspicion that all Germans acted as secret agents. With the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, enemy aliens became clearly associated with the acts of the German armed forces and were seen as being as inhuman as their countrymen in Germany. From about this time a series of writers began to develop the idea of a 'Hidden Hand' which had controlled Britain from the Middle Ages and continued to do so; this entity, they claimed, now influenced all aspects of British life and prevented a victory against Germany. Such ideas reached a peak of acceptance from June 1916, following the death of Lord Kitchener. In 1917 meetings took place to protest against German influence and a series of books appeared on the subject. During 1918 a new element was introduced into the hostility when Pemberton Billing and Arnold White, the right-wing journalist who had played a major role in propagating pre-war anti-Semitism, wrote about the corrupt sexual practices of German agents. While these various forms of antipathy derived their primary stimulus from the feeling against the German nation, they also combined with anti-Semitism so that the writings of Maxse and J. H. Clarke, for instance, do not distinguish between Germans and Jews. In fact, the 'Hidden Hand' theory can be viewed as an extension not only of 'spy-fever' but also of the views which Maxse had put forward from pre-War days about the influence of the 'Potsdam Party'. After discussing the various theories about the activities of enemy

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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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