Re-thinking the history of blame: Britain and minorities during the Second World War

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes

Abstract

Since the end of the Cold War, a range of historical studies have focused on the importance of liberal self-identity in the British wartime imagination. Bitter debates have taken place between Second World War scholars over the extent to which this liberal self-image reflected an historical reality. In particular, historians have argued about Britain's response to and attitude towards the Holocaust; as some scholars have grown tired of what they perceive is a tendency among their colleagues to attack Britain's war role and lay blame without justification. This article offers a new analysis of Britain's wartime policy towards minorities in the context of these ongoing historical debates about liberal self-image and Holocaust culpability. By examining British governmental attitudes towards black war volunteers and soldiers and Jewish refugees from Nazism, it contends that the idea of Britain as a liberal world power is simplistic and problematic. In this analysis, British policies on internment and Jews and blacks in the military are explored in detail. Ultimately, the article argues that high levels of 'racial' thinking in the British government often led to ungenerous and fundamentally illiberal responses towards immigrants and minorities.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-419
Number of pages19
JournalNational Identities
Volume8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006

Keywords

  • Blacks, Holocaust, Immigrants, Jews, Second World War