The battle of Britishness

Migrant journeys, 1685 to the present

By Tony Kushner

The battle of Britishness


  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-6640-5
  • Pages: 328
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £75.00
  • Published Date: December 2012
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Social & cultural history, Migration, immigration & emigration, European history, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Emigration & Immigration, History, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Social & cultural history


This pioneering study of migrant journeys to Britain begins with Huguenot refugees in the 1680s and continues to asylum seekers and east European workers today. Analyzing the history and memory of migrant journeys, covering not only the response of politicians and the public but also literary and artistic representations, then and now, Kushner's volume sheds new light on the nature and construction of Britishness from the early modern era onwards. It is an essential tool for those wanting to understand why people come to Britain (or are denied entry) and how migrants have been viewed by state and society alike.

The journeys covered vary from the famous (including the Empire Windrush in 1948) to the obscure, such as the Volga German transmigrants passing through Britain in the 1870s. While employing a broadly historical approach, Kushner incorporates insights from many other disciplines and employs a comparative methodology to highlight the importance of the symbolic as well as the physical nature of such journeys.


alive with the spirit of adventure that informs migration

In The Battle of Britishness he [Kushner] shows his mastery of the field through interweaving constant connections between past and present journeys. [...] Building on Kushner's earlier analyses of the public histories and collective memory of immigration to Britain, the book is a tour de force in its balance of breadth and nuance.

'Kushner underscores that remembering is above all a political process of selection and exclusion, and that national memories as well as migrant recasting of narratives are part and parcel of this process. Beyond the author's obvious craftsmanship and empathy for his subjects, what emerges from this is the complexity of the struggle for meaning.'


Tony Kushner is Professor of History and Director of the Parkes Institute, University of Southampton


Section 1: Introduction and contexts
1. Britishness, entry and exclusion
2. Constructing migrant journeys
Section 2: Early journeys, 1685 to 1880
3. Huguenot journeys: Constructing the refugees
4. Volga Germans in the late nineteenth century: from refugees to foreign paupers
Section 3: The Nazi era
5. Constructing (another) ideal refugee journey: the Kinder
6. The St Louis and after: Refugee journeys without end?
Section 4: Colonial and postcolonial journeys
7. The Empire Windrush: The making of an iconic British journey
8. Stowaways and others: racism and alternative journeys into Britishness
Section 5: Conclusions
9. Britishness and the nature of migrant journeys

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