'Totally Un-English'?: Britain’s Internment of 'Enemy Aliens' in Two World Wars

Title'Totally Un-English'?: Britain’s Internment of 'Enemy Aliens' in Two World Wars
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsDove, Richard
Number of Pages209

The internment of "enemy aliens" by the British government in two world wars remains largely hidden from history. British historians have treated the subject—if at all—as a mere footnote to the main narrative of Britain at war. In the "Great War," Britain interned some 30,000 German nationals, most of whom had been long-term residents. In fact, internment brought little discernible benefit, but cruelly damaged lives and livelihoods, breaking up families and disrupting social networks. In May 1940, under the threat of imminent invasion, the British government interned some 28,000 Germans and Austrians, mainly Jewish refugees from the Third Reich. It was a measure which provoked lively criticism, not least in Parliament, where one MP called the internment of refugees "totally un–English." The present volume seeks to shed more light on this still submerged historical episode, adopting an inter-disciplinary approach to explore hitherto under-researched aspects, including the historiography of internment, the internment of women, deportation to Canada, and culture in internment camps, including such notable events as the internment revue What is Life!

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