Britain’s history

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Throughout the period 1880 to the present day there has been many questions asked as to whether Britain has been a tolerant nation. In this essay I am going to discuss many groups of immigrants who have migrated over to Britain and decide whether Britain actually has been tolerant or not. The first group of immigrants I am going to talk about is the Jews (sources A and B) that migrated to Britain in-between the periods 1880 to the present day. There was around 150,000 Jews that set off from Russia to come to Britain, with the majority heading for the larger cities such as London, Manchester and Leeds.

There became a massive case of overcrowding in these cities. At first the British people seemed to like the Jews as they were only taking up any spare jobs or houses and not really causing any harm to anyone, but as time went on and as more Jews started to pile into the country, Britain then became less and less tolerant of the Jews and started to charge many Jews high rents, also racism then started on the streets this led to Jews having to live in overcrowded places where there was atrocious public health.

By this time even the Anglo-Jews were worried about what was going on around them, they were worried about how the Jews that had just come over from Russia might ruin their reputation which they had worked hard to build up with the British public. As time went on and the conditions that the Jews were having to live with were getting worse and worse there was a organisation set up called the Jewish board of Guardians, this was set up to help the poor Jews in Britain who were finding it hard to live in the conditions they were made to.

After all this, Britain then stooped to its lowest point of toleration to these Jews when on the 4th of October 1936, Sir Owald Mosley and 2000 supporters of the British union of fascists (BUF) planned a march through the east end of London. Jewish trade unionists and communists organised a blockade of the route. AS the march began, the marcher’s route was blocked with barricades. Many of the Jewish trade union and communists were violently attacked by the police when they refused to move and let the BUF pass. Eventually the BUF had to abandon their march from the tower of London to Victoria Park in Hackney.

Seeing this happen the government had no choice but to respond, they did this by introducing the aliens act (1905) which was introduced to try and keep immigration levels down to a responsible amount. They started this law by sending many immigrants back on the ships that brought them here because they had failed to state things that were in this new law which allowed them to belong in this country. After this law was introduced the number of immigrants went back to the average 5000 a year that they had before the massive flow of immigrants.

Despite how Britain had treated the Jews, they found themselves being very tolerant when a group of Polish fighter pilots migrated over to Britain in 1939 (source C). These Polish men were actually a very significant reason of why Britain won WW2, with them shooting down one tenth of the enemy aircraft that was shot down during the war and this was the main reason why many British people were tolerant to these people. The polish men did actually have a chance to go back to Poland after the war but with their new life in Britain and with Poland now being a communist country many never got round to doing this.

The next flow of immigrants I am going to talk about a massive group of Caribbean’s coming over after WW2 on a boat called The Empire Windrush. When they arrived they realised the so called mother country was not what it actually lived up to be. They were surprised by the level of dirt, smoke, but most of all they couldn’t get to grips with the cold weather compared with the Caribbean. When the Caribbean’s had arrived around the period 1948 they realised that since the war the British public’s attitude towards other colonies had changed drastically.

They realised how the British public had suddenly gone more aggressive to people from different colonies. In short they were trying to say that the Caribbean’s should get back to their own country. Many people from the Caribbean said at the point in time, you could split the British public into thirds. The first third being those who still had imperialistic ideas and thought people from other colonies should be planting bananas and making chocolate, the next third did not really care just as long as Arsenal had won on the Saturday and the final third were just ordinary kind hearted people.

Britain again found themselves being very intolerant to immigrants during the 1960s and 1970s. There was an increase in both racist incidents and the formation of racial organisations. Even racism was now being used to help win political elections for example: In 1964 a man called Peter Griffins who was a conservative candidate for a town called Smethwick. He used slogans such as “if you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote labour” he claimed that a conservative victory would protect British culture and jobs, he also believed that black immigrants brought diseases into the country.

Despite using very racial tactics he was successful as he won his campaign in Smethwick. Moving on to the 1970s and racism had still not been sorted and was actually getting worse. In August 1977, the national front announced that I was going to march through the mainly black area of Lewisham in south London. As they were doing this march a massive demonstration of people tried to stop the march, but with the police force being just as racist as the others they decided to allow the racists and fascists to carry on with the march while arresting the anti racists.

Source F shows how the government reacted to this. They did set up new laws to try and stop the severe case of racism in Britain. The first of which was the race relations act (1965) this law made racism in public places illegal and it also made ‘incitement to racial hatred’ an offence. Unfortunately the results of this act were very limited more blacks were charged with ‘incitement to racial hatred, then whites and also the act was not effective against racism (racists were generally not punished).

A second law was introduced in 1976 the race relations act (1976) this law made racial discrimination unlawful in employment, housing and education also the communism for racial equality set up to make sure that people knew about the act and obeyed it. The results of this act was not drastic and after many racial attacks still taking place the act was widely criticised for failing to make the public bodies including the police. Britain were again intolerant in the last incident I am going to talk about, in which a racial murder took place on the 22nd of April 1993 to an 18 year old boy called Stephen Lawrence.

It was a racist murder, were 6 white youths attacked a defenceless Stephen they shouted to him “What, What nigger” before violently beating and stabbing him to death. The police who were still intolerant and racist to black people at this time, decided not to follow up any inquires made and quite frankly they couldn’t be bothered to find Stephens’s killer. They even made up a stupid story saying that Stephen had had a fight with his friend Mr Brooks and that had led to his death, they tried to make people believe this story even though there were many witnesses who said otherwise.

This showed that racism was far from finished in Britain because to be honest this would have never happened if Stephen had been Black. So after looking through many racial moments in Britain since the 1880s I have come to a conclusion that Britain has not been a tolerant nation over time and they have quite frankly been very racist. Giving Britain a bit of sympathy they have had to put up with many immigrants but there is no excuse for the lack of effort Britain has made with these people and the lack of decency they still have for immigrants nowadays.

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