Panikos Panayi. German Immigrants in Britain during the Nineteenth Century, 1815 to 1914. Providence, R.I.: Berg Publishers, 1995. xx + 301 pp. $52.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-85973-092-8.
Reviewed by Don Heinrich Tolzmann (University of Cincinnati)
Published on H-German (September, 1995)
The Germans in Britain
Although immigration history in general and German-American history in particular have reached relative stages of sophistication in the U.S., the study of immigration and of particular ethnic groups in Europe is relatively unexplored. However, largely due to migration movements, as well as to the realities of population statistics, European scholars are moving to questions dealing with increasingly multiethnic populations. Britain, for example, needs to examine the peoples in her midst. Historically, it has attracted peoples as the center of a now-lost empire, as well as immigrants from Europe on their way to America. This work deals with a significant group in Britain, the German element. Only since the 1970s has the study of the Germans in Britain attracted attention, at first, focusing primarily on the refugees from the Third Reich, but later on, on the 19th and 20th centuries. Hence, we have a field of study here, which is "im Werden."
Panayi's fine work can be characterized as an introductory history, not mainly primary source-based, but resting on a wide range of secondary sources, and drawing heavily on the field of German-American Studies, thus leading to numerous interesting comparisons and conclusions between German-American and British- German history. Additionally, the author has drawn on primary materials in Britian and Germany. As such, the work is of concern to those interested in the topic of the German immigration and settlement in Britain and America, as well as to those who are now dealing with the question of European societies becoming evermore multicultural.
In chapter I, "The Pre-Nineteenth Century Period," Panayi discusses the migration of Germans to Britain before 1815. Here, we see that the post-1815 period was an obvious continuation of an older chain-migration, and that the German communities owed their origins and institutions to earlier migrations. Indeed, the nineteenth century German communities "did not appear out of nowhere but expanded on previous settlements." (p. 2) Already in the period of the Roman Empire German migration to Britain had begun, but the first massive wave came in the 5/6th centuries with the migration of 50/100,000 Angles and Saxons.
Migration increased during the period of the Hanse and the rise of the German merchants, so that several of the early German communities in Britain were actually Hanseatic in nature. Other migrations followed as a result of the Reformation and the Thirty Years War. A major push factor was that southwest Germany was subjected to French aggression after the Thirty Years War, especially in 1674 and 1709. This left the region devastated, with the result that mass migration took place, and became known as the Palatine Exodus In America, these immigrants became the ancestors of today's Pennsylvania Germans, but some of them didn't make the trip to America, but remained in Britain. The Hannoverian connection to England (1714-1837) is traced, focusing on Haendel and the other German musicians who came across the channel in that period.
In chapter II, "German Migration to Britain in the Nineteenth Century," the author examines the reasons Germans came, so that by 1914 they formed the largest non-English element after the Irish. He deals with the complex web of push, enabling, and pull factors, and the concepts of underlying, short-term and personal reasons for migration. In terms of push factors, he points to large population growth and the patterns of land ownership, but does not adequately deal with the basic problem of German disunity and the related socio-economic and political problems ensuing therefrom. As a push factor, he focuses on the advanced industrial development in Britain, which pulled many, but no so many as the at that time greatly advancing U.S. economy. Short-term factors are identified, such as harvest failures and upward trends in the American economy. Personal factors were the pressures of family and friends in Britain, which formed links in chain migration process. Immigrants arriving in the nineteenth century were coming from the same places that immigrants to the U.S. originated from. Enabling factors coming into play were the growth of shipping routes which stopped in Britain, and which led to migration decisions to remain in that country.
Chapter III, "Residential, Age, and Gender, and Occupational Distribution," deals mainly with the first and last factors of the chapter title. In terms of distribution, Germans concentrated on the Greater London area, so that 50% of them resided there. Within their communities, Germans divided along class lines, as it did in the British population as well. Age and gender distribution reveal that males predominated in the migration, whereas families did in the case of German migration to the U.S. In terms of class, the author identifies the following strata: an underclass, the poor and working class, and the bourgeoise.
In chapter IV, "Ethnic Organisations" are discussed. Panayi bases his definition on that of Floya Anthias, who states that ethnic groups are "premised on the development of solidary bonds and consciousness and an imaginary origin (often called myth of origin) which may be located in diverse ways, historically, culturally, or territorially." (p. xvii) This also takes into consideration class divisions within ethnic groups. In this chapter, the author demonstrates how German ethnicity was maintained via German ethnic organizations, which revolved around religion, philanthropy, culture, and politics. Chapters III-IV demonstrate that the Germans in Britain were a diverse group in terms of class and origin. In short, they represented a cross- section of society.
In the final chapter, "British Attitudes Towards Germany, Germans and German Immigrants," Panayi argues that there was a positive image based on a variety of images of the German countryside, German learning and culture. This positive and romanticized image was transformed in the Edwardian Era due to the deteriorating relations with Germany, as the latter was increasingly viewed as a threat to Britain and its Empire. The positive image, hence, was replaced by that of a negative one.
In conclusion, the work provides a general introduction to the history of the German element in Britain, and one which sets the stage for further studies. Indeed, it is hoped that the author will follow up with a study of the Germans in Britain during the period of the world wars. Also, the pre-nineteenth century of the Germans in Britain is one which is in need of greater exploration.
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Don Heinrich Tolzmann. Review of Panayi, Panikos, German Immigrants in Britain during the Nineteenth Century, 1815 to 1914.
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