We have always had a fear of the unknownby Philip Ball / May 18, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Fears that Eastern Europeans, unrestricted by any immigration controls, were taking jobs from British workers caused widespread public unrest and provoked xenophobic bile in the newspapers. One editorial complained of “the dirty, destitute, diseased, verminous and criminal foreigner who dumps himself on our soil,” while prominent politicians supported a far-right group that called Britain “the dumping ground for the scum of Europe.” Eventually the Conservative prime minister took action to shut down the “open door” to foreigners entering the country.
On that earlier occasion there was a strong whiff of anti-Semitism in the opposition to immigration. Jews were presented as bloodsucking leeches who preyed on the vulnerable. There was a suspiciously Oriental strain of blood flowing in their veins and something uncanny about their gaunt appearance. What a terrible thought that this blood might mingle with good English stock and corrupt the race!
Yes, it is all ugly and melodramatic, but perhaps you see too where it is going. With unease about the Eastern European “invasion” at its peak in the late 1890s, who should appear in London but a certain Trans…