Globalization Lectures

Draft. Lecture (autumn semester) Postcolonial immigration (English case study)


In this lecture we are going to discuss post-war immigration and settlement to England (a narrower focus than the UK, and introduce some of the key postcolonial perspectives that help illuminate the im/mobilities, political and media discourse and im/mobility policies that developed in this post 1945 period.

Immigration prior to WWII

Prior to the second world war, England was already a country of immigration. This was mainly due to its status as one of the nations of the United Kingdom (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales) and its marginalisation of the Irish through a form of quasi-colonisation.


The prevailing racism of English attitudes to immigrants became evident in its response to Jewish immigration during the second world war, and afterwards.

By the 1940s, there were approx. 400,000 refugees from Nazi germany. They came despite the Aliens Act (1905) which was designed to restrict Jewish immigration (particularly the immigration of poor Eastern European Jews).The British government  limit the offer of protection to the amount of refugees that Jewish organisations were prepared to fund. It refused to extend this policy to the general population (as members of the public had offered to support Jewish refugees) as the effect would have been an extension rather than limitation of support.

Between 1933 and 1948 Britain limited Jewish immigration

  • The Anschluss (annexation of Austria, 1938) produced a vast increase in the need for refuge,
  • By 1939, 60,000  refugees, including 10,000 Kindertransport children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia

In 1939 only ten per cent of refugee applicants were successful. Eastern European political refugees preferred over Jewish persons

  • restrictive visa requirements from Austria and Germany, and pre-selection from abroad.
  • Refugees only had temporary residence
  • Had to have own business, work as domestic servants; the Anglo-Jewish orgs had to support those in need
  • Many members of the public offered their own homes and resources,  the government declined
  • All visas cancelled during the war
  • the EVWS rejected Jewish immigrants.

Post-war immigration (1945 +)

  • Labour migration
  • Temporary workers
  • Colonial tie migration
  • Chain migration

Pull factors

Need to build post-war economy after loss of world power status to US

Labour shortages:

  • Loss of working age males in the Second World War; female workers return to households
  • large-scale emigration of British persons to the white dominions in the post-war period (1.5 million had emigrated by 1960)
  • 1948/49, government states a need for a guest-worker scheme of up-to 1 million workers.


European ‘push’ factors for post war migration

  • 1.8 million refugees living in 262 Displace Persons camps run by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) (1945)
  • By 1947 these numbers had been swelled by large flows of Eastern European Jews (UNRRA had become responsible for an additional 500 camps).
  • Anti-Semitic conflict, homelessness and poverty were the major ‘push’ factors for many of the millions of post-war Europeans caught in refugee camps or  homeless
  • Many would have accepted the chance to re-settle and work in Britain

War time migration & settlement
 in Britain(1938-45)


  • 60,000 refugees & Kindertransport
  • 300,000 Dutch and Belgian citizens after the invasion of Netherlands, Belgium
  • 115,000 Polish allied fighters

Colonial workers

  • 1,200 British Hondurans in the Scottish highlands felling timber
  • 1,000 West Indians in the Merseyside and Lancashire war factories;
  • 10,000 West Indians as ground crews for the Air Force
  • 1,000s of colonial seamen were recruited or enlisted to work in the merchant navy.


1938-45: 70,000 into England & Wales.

Post-war immigration

1946-59: 350,000 Irish workers (net inflow)

  • Many more in circular migration (moving back and forth for work, family)
  • their entry was unrestricted
  • Status as Irish citizens granted British subjecthood.

European labour migration between 1946 -51 brought in 460,000 European migrants.

  • 90,000 migrants (Poles, Italians, and others from displaced persons camps in Germany and Italy) under the European Voluntary Workers Scheme (EVWS)
  • British state undertook ‘to meet all the costs of recruitment, transport and repatriation on behalf of British business.
  • European migrants were recruited to fill gaps in the labour market in agriculture, brick-making, coal-mining, engineering, hospitality, metal production, textiles, and hospitals.

New Commonwealth migration Push & Pull factors

Push factors:

West Indies. Unemployment, population growth, and the cutting of alternative outlets for migration;Late 1940s + West Indians began to emigrate to escape chronic unemployment, poverty, and violent levels of socio-political unrest. West Indians migrated to the US, within the Caribbean itself, and to Canada and Britain.

Indian and ‘Pakistani’ people migrated after the partition of 1947 which caused the displacement of I5 million people; many from  Sikh communities from the Punjab where they had been driven by the annexation of ‘West Pakistan’.

Pull factors:

Job opportunities and better opportunities and prospects in Britain, opportunity to support family via remittances. Zig Layton-Henry

remittances that migrants sent home during this period rapidly became a dominant form of GNP in the Caribbean nations; i.e., second highest component for Jamaica 1948-1951.

New Commonwealth & varied immigration

1953-1961 (net)





Net migration

  • 1951-61 + 12,000;
  • 1961-71, – 320,000
  • 1971-1981, – 306,000
  • 1981-91, +75,000 est.
  • 1991-2001, +737,000 est.
  • 2001-2011, +2,184,000 est

Today approx. 5.5. million UK citizens live abroad

Four phases of immigration policy in the UK


Four phases of immigration policy

  • Controls on Jews and other ‘aliens’ arriving from Europe, 1905 onwards (1905 Aliens Act)
  • Controls on New (black and Asian) Commonwealth migrants, as opposed to Old (white) Commonwealth immigrants, 1962 onwards explicit distinctions being made
  • Controls on the entry and rights of asylum seekers, 1980s onwards
  • 1990s+ ‘Managed migration’ and tighter more selective controls on labour migration, including some Eastern European migrants such as Bulgarians and Romanians 
  • Managed migration’
    • Immigration policy has become a key area of policy development for UK and European governments:
    • introducing increasingly restrictive immigration controls
    • reviewing and revising their models for integrating migrants into UK society.

Restricting irregular immigration & settlement

  • Policy focus on deportations (see UK Border Agency for press releases)
  • Policy focus on language schools, further ed. colleges
  • Workplace raids
  • Some countries have used regularisation programmes to overcome the problems of undocumented migrants, the UK has limited experience of this

Explanations for restrictions:

  • 1) ‘Securitization’ – (terrorism, crime, social relations)
  • certain policy issues (like migration) become constructed into issues of security
  • Governments try to maintain authority by promising to protect their citizens from insecurities associated with immigration. These promises serve as a diversion or explanation for economically generated fear that the state has little control over.
  • Social relations (see Enoch Powell and Rivers of Blood speech) – Societal security refers to the way in which social relations are managed and how threats to them can be prevented (Walters 2004).
  • Economic  concerns, welfare state and citizenship
  • Citizenship (T. H. Marshall, 1964: 71-72)
    • Civil: the “the rights necessary for individual freedom”.
    • Political: “the right to participate in the exercise of political power”.
    • Social: “economic welfare and security to the right to share to the full in the social heritage and to live the life of a civilised being according to standards prevailing in the society”
  • Welfare, economy, jobs
    • The welfare state has played a significant role in understandings of citizenship since its emergence during the twentieth century (Schierup et al. 2006).
    • Concerns over the allocation of public resources and economic concerns (Bloch & Schuster 2002)
    • Lucassen (2005: 15) refers to the creation of the welfare state and the concern that developed over ‘free riders’. (i.e. ‘scroungers’)

Battle for Cable Street 196

“East End Jews were under siege from Oswald Mosley’s fascists. Blackshirted street corner speakers railed against the Jews, “rats and vermin from the gutters of Whitechapel”, blaming them for every social ill”.

Unintended consequences: changing demography & identities

Multi-ethnic UK and Europe

  • British Nationality Act 1948 granted the subjects of the British Empire the right to live and work in the UK. Commonwealth citizens were not, therefore, subject to immigration control
  • Questioning/conflicts over British/European National identity
  • Imagined Communities (Benedict Anderson, 2016)

Contested racialisation of immigration

  • Early to mid 20th C time of xenophobia, racial and ethno-nationalism (settler colonies took liberal Britain as their icon of homogenous community, ie.e White Australia Policy; First Aliens Act 1905 designed to prevent Jewish immigration
  • As well as xenophobic violence during the war, there were racist riots and then government deportation programs directed at black and Brown maritime workers after the war, including Liverpool, Glasgow, Manchester, London, Cardiff, Hull. Only some socialist and minority left wing supported internationalism

    (Virdee, 99).

  • Post-war: Contests between anti racism and ongoing xenophobia, racial and ethno-nationalism

“the state, employer and worker came to adhere to a common belief in British nationalism underpinned by a shared allegiance to whiteness”. Virdee, Satnam.(2016. 99).

  • Such ethno-nationalism was contested. For example, Jewish, Labour, socialist and local residents combine to riot against a British Union of Facists march in the East End 1938; Mosley’s facism was anti-semetic.Public anti-racism, empathy for Jews in England, and Europe



Jewish children arriving at London under the Kindertransport program in 1939. The program had widespread public support (with more offers to take children than the government was prepared to rescue)

Post-war Political discourse

  • Immigration linked to social problems in terms ethnicity, ‘race’, size of immigrant population (Solomos, 1993)
  • Enoch Powell, Rivers of Blood Speech, 1968

    Powell chose to make this speech just 16 days after the assassination of the US civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, and amidst the urban unrest that followed throughout most American cities. Contained within the speech is a warning to the British political class; that if they didn’t take action and repatriate non-whites then they too would face the longer-term danger of American-style urban unrest, especially from those defined as the black and the brown English (Solomos 2003: 61). Quoting the Roman poet Virgil, he warned ‘As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood” ’ (cited in Heffer 1998: 454).


Public and institutional racism

  • Popular racism + xenophobia; riots, housing & employment, policing, justice system discrimination
  • New Commonwealth immigrants experienced racist discrimination from public, and institutional racism from government bodies. Peter Fryer, 374. Fryer states, for example, that ‘in the late 1950s, more than half the male West Indians in London had lower status jobs than their skill and experience fitted them for’.
  • late 1950s and 1960s

an exponential growth in street-level racism and violence directed against blacks and Asians accompanied by the introduction of racist immigration controls by the state. Virdee, 2016. 99-100.

Anti-immigrant racism at work and in public

  • Major workplaces operated a ‘colour-bar’ jointly enforced by trade unions and employers (Watson 1996: 154).
  • white trade unionists took industrial action to defend the ‘colour bar’. Virdee, Satnam (2016. 102).
  • 1958, anti-immigrant racist riots erupted in Nottingham in the East Midlands and Notting Hill, west London.
  • “We will kill all black bastards. Why don’t you send them home?” (Travis, A. 2002)

    11se Asqith Xavier has been described as a British Rosa Parks. He fought against racistemployment discrimination and won the right to work as a national rail guard in Euston, London, thus defeating the colour bar (in 1966)



Consequences of discrimination Late 1940s-1960s

  • Black and Asian migrant labour and their British-born children suffered sustained discrimination including informal colour bar (Daniel, 1968)
  • relegated to being a racialized fraction of the working class (Phizacklea and Miles 1980; Miles 1982).
  • Development of “race relations paradigm“: excluding coloured immigrants and providing anti-discrimination protection = 1962 Commonwealth Immigration Act, 1965/68 Race Relations Acts.
  • ‘integration without control is impossible, but control without integration is impossible’. Roy Hattersley, 1965
  • none of the post-1945 British Immigration Acts employs an explicitly racist discourse; they do not make explicit reference to ‘black’ people and they contain no statement of intent to exclude people defined as a distinct ‘race’ (unlike, for example, the Special Restriction (Coloured Alien Seamen) order of 1925) . Nevertheless, when the political context in which the legislation was passed is examined, we find that a racist ideology was present and that the legislation was introduced in order to realise racist objectives. Robert Miles, 1993, 85

Race Relations Paradigm in sociology

    • Division between theorists who
    • A) see the actions of politicians and bureaucrats as part of a racialising strategy which seeks political legitimation by problematising post-war immigration as a ‘racial’ issue
    • B) those who view the elite liberal politicians of this period as having resisted the popular xenophobia or racism that resulted from ‘inassimilable’ immigration.
    • A) see, for example, Ann Dummett and Michael Dummett, ‘The role of government in Britain’s racial crisis’, in C. Husband, (ed.), ‘Race’ in Britain: Continuity and Change, London, Hutchinson, 1982; Kathleen Paul, (1997) Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era, Ithica and London, Cornell University Press
    • B) for example, Randall Hansen (2000), Citizenship and Immigration in Post-war Britain, Oxford, Oxford University Press

Legacies of post war racialisation of immigration

  • Race relations paradigm balancing of exclusion against integration relevant to ‘managed migration’ and multicultralism 1990s+
  • Xenophobic racism not limited to skin colour, (originally directed at Jewish immigrants), so cultural
  • Anti-immigration historically linked culture to class (against the poverty of immigrants)
  • Xeno-racism (Sivanandan, 2000) directed against asylum seekers, Islamophobia directed against Islamic immigration
  • immigrationpoliticised : Immigrants stand in for social problems (welfare, housing, jobs)

Postcolonial perspectives on post war immigration racialisation

  • Paul Gilroy observes that post-war British society has demonstrated a post-colonial melancholia, a longing for an imagined pst in which white British subjects were dominant actors ruling over the coloured British Empire. This melancholia fuels xenophobia and racism underlying much of the british discourse and policy towards New Commonwealth immigration. This continues into the present, as the Empire Windrush controversies (aggressive and unacknowledged policy of deporting West Indian immigrants using adminstrative techniques of justification) illustrate.
  • Stuart Hall described New Commonwealth immigration as ‘the return of the repressed’, arguing that it represented a form of resistance to ongoing legacies of colonisation. Hall developed a large body of work within a postcolonial perspective, and did much to propogate key concepts within the literature. Of particular note is the concept of hybridity.
  • More prosaically, migration between and amongst the former metropolis and the colonies is regarded as following postcolonial pathways, a particular form of chain migration, networking and diaspora.
  • Satnam Virdee …
  • Sivanadan pointed to the redeployment of anti-coloured immigration sentiment towards asylum seeker immigrants, coining the term ‘xenoracism’.



Alibah-Brown, Yasmin, Who Do We Think We Are? Imagining the New Britain (London, 2001).

Ê. Balibar and I. Wallerstein (1991), Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities, London, Verso Books (1991)

Benedict Anderson, (2016), Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Revised Edition, London, Verso.

Bloch, A. and L. Schuster. 2002. Asylum and Welfare: contemporary debates. Critical Social Policy. 22(3), pp.393-414.

Bleich, Erik, Race Politics in Britain and France (Cambridge, 2003).

Ann Dummett and Michael Dummett, ‘The role of government in Britain’s racial crisis’, in C. Husband, (ed.), ‘Race’ in Britain: Continuity and Change, London, Hutchinson, 1982

Fryer, Peter, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London, 1984).

Geddes, Andrew, The Politics of Immigration and Race (Manchester, 1996).

Gilroy, Paul, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation (London, 1987).

Goulbourne, Harry, Race Relations in Britain since 1945 (Basingstoke, 1998).

Hansen, R. ‘Migration to Europe since 1945: Its History and Its Lessons’, Political Quarterly (2003), 74, 1, pp 25–38.

Heffer, S (1998). Like the Roman: the life of Enoch Powell. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Zig Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration, ‘Race’ and ‘Race’ Relations in Post-War Britain, Oxford, Blackwells, 1992

Louise London (2001) Whitehall and the Jews, 1933-1948: British Immigration Policy, Jewish Refugees and the Holocaust,Cambridge, Cambridge University Press,

Tony Kushner, Katherine Knox, (1999) Refugees in an Age of Genocide, London: Frank Cass

Tony Kushner, (2009),Anglo-Jewry Since 1066: Place, Locality and Memory, Manchester, Manchester University Press.

Miles, R. 1982. Racism and Migrant Labour. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul

Miles, Robert, Racism after Race Relations, Routledge, London, 1993

Kathleen Paul, (1997) Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era, Ithica and London, Cornell University Press

T. H. Marshall (1987), Citizenship and Social Class, London, Pluto Press

Phizacklea, A. and Miles, R. 1980. Labour and Racism. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul

Rosemary Sales (2007) Understanding Immigration and Refugee Policy, Bristol: Policy Press)

Sivanadan, A, Refugees from globalism, CARF 57, August/September, 2000

Solomos, J. 2003. Race and Racism in Contemporary Britain, 3rd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Satnam Virdee (2014) Racism, Class, and the Racialised Outsider, London, Palgrave Macmillan

Non-academic reading

An antidote to the far right’s poison’​ ​– the battle for Cable Street’s mural’, The Guardian, September 21, 2016

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