Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

For most of the nineteenth century, Germans composed the largest continental immigrant group in Britain. However, because of the World Wars, postwar scholarship embraced Anglo-German antagonism, painting Germans as the main enemy of the British dating back to the middle of the nineteenth century. Because of this historiographic trend, this migrant community has been largely forgotten. This dissertation seeks to excavate this lost colony and tell its story.

Through five thematic chapters, this project reveals that German immigrants were actually welcomed into British society. Unlike other foreign minorities, such as Irish Catholics or Eastern European Jews, German migrants did not alarm Victorians, not only because they were “cousins”, but also because they integrated smoothly into and proved a boon to British society. There were two fundamental reasons why German migrants were more readily accepted. First, like most of the English, they were overwhelmingly Protestant. Germans established churches and schools throughout the city that served as the foundation of this community. Secondly, Germans benefitted England’s growing industrial economy. They generally moved within preexisting migration networks, arrived as skilled workers, and found gainful employment, from master bakers to merchant bankers. While some naturally fell on hard times, the community established an extensive charitable network that provided assistance to poor Germans, ensuring their community did not place a burden on British institutions and society. Because most Germans worked and had a social safety net, they generally did not fall into criminal behavior nor did the British view Germans as a criminal element. Finally, Germans established many clubs throughout the city. Even though these institutions were founded as manifestations of Germanness, they tended to be inclusive, taking on the cosmopolitan character of London, while advancing positive Anglo-German relations, as well as emerging cultural trends, such as physical fitness. Rather than any sense of Anglo-German antagonism during this period, this excavation revealed that German immigrants were welcomed and respected by Victorians because they fit the model of the good citizen and were eager and willing to integrate into and contribute to British society.

Committee Chair

Marchand, Suzanne

Available for download on Tuesday, February 29, 2028

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