Type of Document Master's Thesis Author Macenczak, Ansley L URN etd-06092010-150557 Title German Enemy Aliens and the Decline of British Liberalism Degree Master of Arts (M.A.) Department History Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Marchand, Suzanne L. Committee Chair Lindenfeld, David F. Committee Member Veldman, Meredith Committee Member Keywords
- internment camps
- Liberal Party
- Defence of the Realm Act
Date of Defense 2010-05-19 Availability unrestricted AbstractAfter the start of World War I in 1914, the British government began internment of enemy alien men, disrupting the large German population settled in the country. This move seemed to be in complete contrast in comparison to the lax immigration laws during the long nineteenth century, when Great Britain had one of the most liberal immigration laws of any country in Europe. The British public was proud of this tradition and Britain’s image as an open haven for refugees and individuals seeking a better life. Foreigners were attracted to Britain by its liberal traditions, most clearly exemplified by the Liberal Party’s espousal of limited government intervention and the protection of civil liberties.
This thesis will examine the decades of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the Liberal Party experienced a crisis of ideals and a split and Britain experienced an economic depression which coincided with an increase in immigration. During these decades, foreigners became a convenient “other” for Britons to blame for economic problems, and pressure from the angry public forced governments to pass new legislation which contradicted previous open-door policies. The Aliens Act of 1905, one of the first pieces of legislation which provided officials with more power to turn away undesirable aliens and limit their movement around the country, was followed by the Defence of the Realm Act and the Aliens Restriction Act, which H.H. Asquith’s Liberal government passed immediately following the declaration of war on Germany in 1914.
For the duration of the war Germans in Britain faced blatant discrimination and infringement upon their civil liberties, as dictated by the new wartime legislation. Most men were interned in large camps located on the Isle of Man, while women faced repatriation at the discretion of the government. At the conclusion of World War I, David Lloyd George’s coalition government decided to extend the new restrictions regarding immigration legislation, conveying how British liberal traditions were forever changed.
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