Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era / Edition 1

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Overview

Kathleen Paul challenges the usual explanation for the racism of post-war British policy. According to standard historiography, British public opinion forced the Conservative government to introduce legislation stemming the flow of dark-skinned immigrants and thereby altering an expansive nationality policy that had previously allowed all British subjects free entry into the United Kingdom. Paul's extensive archival research shows, however, that the racism of ministers and senior functionaries led rather than followed public opinion. In the late 1940s, the Labour government faced a birthrate perceived to be in decline, massive economic dislocations caused by the war, a huge national debt, severe labor shortages, and the prospective loss of international preeminence. Simultaneously, it subsidized the emigration of Britons to Australia, Canada, and other parts of the Empire, recruited Irish citizens and European refugees to work in Britain, and used regulatory changes to dissuade British subjects of color from coming to the United Kingdom. Paul contends post-war concepts of citizenship were based on a contradiction between the formal definition of who had the right to enter Britain and the informal notion of who was, or could become, really British.Whitewashing Britain extends this analysis to contemporary issues, such as the fierce engagement in the Falklands War and the curtailment of citizenship options for residents of Hong Kong. Paul finds the politics of citizenship in contemporary Britain still haunted by a mixture of imperial, economic, and demographic imperatives.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This work offers an exhaustively researched account of the development of British immigration policy in the post-war period. In a break with the conventional assessment of British policy, Paul . . . finds that government ministers and civil servants were the driving force behind opposition to immigrants from Commonwealth nations in Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean, rather than 'racist' popular opinion. . . . This robust work of scholarship should find readers in British and Commonwealth studies as well as migration and citizenship studies."—Library Journal

"Paul uses parliamentary debates, official documents, speeches, and memoirs to demonstrate successfully how British emigration and immigration were controlled and manipulated by the post-WW II governments to preserve the 'Britishness' of the dominions and the 'whiteness' of Britain. . . . This cogently argued, well-researched book provides valuable insights into British politics of race. It ranks with other pathbreaking works. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"A well-researched study."—Foreign Affairs

"Paul's book contributes to the debate about what constitutes membership in society and identifies key differences in the British immigration policy."—Catherine Lloyd, International Migration Review

"This book casts an interesting new light on British citizenship and immigration policy in the postwar era. Based on substantial archival research (that is presented in a very readable fashion), this is an often compelling historical account of the maneuverings of the British political elite in defining nationality policy, particularly in the early years of immigration. . . . A well-researched, well-written, and interesting new approach to the history of British immigration and citizenship policy-making since 1945."—British Politics Group Newsletter

"This is not just a well-documented study of an underdeveloped area of research. Sensitive to the complexities of how terms such as citizen and nationality are constructed, it brings to light not only much new information on this important issue, but new ways of looking at the creation of British identity in this late-imperial context. . . . A most thoroughly researched and convincingly argued book, which should be widely read by all those who seek to understand postwar Britain in all its dimensions."—Labor History

"This book is a powerful, polemical, intriguing account of an important topic. Its premise, that in the eyes of British authorities only whites can be 'true' Britons, some may find controversial, but I found quite convincing."—Peter Stansky, Stanford University

Library Journal
This work offers an exhaustively researched account of the development of British immigration policy in the post-war period. In a break with the conventional assessment of British policy, Paul history, Univ. of South Florida finds that government ministers and civil servants were the driving force behind opposition to immigrants from Commonwealth nations in Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean, rather than "racist" popular opinion. She neatly summarizes her thesis in the opening pages: "Facing the fact that successive governments did not want them and tried to reclassify them as something other than British, British subjects of color still have to fight to identify themselves as British. They do so within a domestic community many of whose members, thanks to successive legislative acts, have come to understand race as a natural divider and nationality as an accidental commonality." The author revisits postwar policy-making in part to cast fresh light on contemporary debates over nationality and citizenship. This robust work of scholarship should find readers in British and Commonwealth studies as well as migration and citizenship studies. Recommended for academic libraries.Kent Worcester, Social Science Research Council, New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801484407
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Preface
Introduction: The Road from 1945 1
Ch. 1 Subjects and Citizens 9
Ch. 2 Emigrating British Stock 25
Ch. 3 Recruiting Potential Britons 64
Ch. 4 Neither Subjects nor Aliens but Irish 90
Ch. 5 Keeping Britain White 111
Ch. 6 Tinkering at the Edges of Nationality 131
Ch. 7 Still the Same Old Story 170
Notes 191
Index 247
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