Monday, July 09, 2007
Books - Book Review - Bloody Foreigners - Robert Winder
This book has two focii: What qualities makes one English? Who is eligible for immigration to the UK?
The book interweaves both ideas throughout this highly readable tome.
First of all? How English are the English? The answer: Not Very. Even the Celts, according to new theories, come from mainland Europe, and are NOT natives!
The book also tells how many peoples came over: the Hugenots, Danes, Jews, Indians, Pakistani, Chinese, Africans, etc.
This paragraph was powerful, because it can apply to any immigrant anywhere in the world:
Few Hugenots would have called themselves immigrants. They merchants probably thought of themselves as working temporarily from the London office. the rest were waiting for civilization to return to France so that they could go home and pick up the threads of their former lives.
This is ture of a great many immigrants even today. Immigration, indeed, might be a rather grandiose, unequivocal word for what is often a difficult decision, full of hesitations, reluctant compromises. The drip-drip process of acclimilisation becomes immigration only in retrospect
For the most part, the immigrants are not so welcome to the UK. (Even though the US was founded on the ideal of making new starts, many immigrants also have a hard time being accepted, although it seems that it is more difficult in the UK.)
The immigrants in Britain start new business ventures and introduce different ideas . One example is the founding of M&S. I bought some OJ and snacks at a Marks and Spenser store in Glasgow's Central Train Station. The large chain was founded by Marks, who came from a small town in Poland. He sold notions at one penny each; no haggling at all. He later became partners with Spenser, who worked as a cashier at a clothing concern. By 1907, there were about 60 stores in northern England. Today, besides having department stores, there are small grocery stores with the M&S brand.
The take-out (take away) of food from the restaurant to your home was started by Indian restaurants.
There is some dismay in the educated immigrants when they realize that not everyone in England knows their own literature/history or even cares about it. They were also surprised to see white people do manual labor.
The changes in neighbors is also examined. For example, Jack the Ripper killed many of his victims on Brick Lane. Now, it's an East Asian neighborhood. It's even been written about in Monica Ali's novel with the same name.
Despite legislation to limit the migrations, new people keep coming. People from the former colonies are admitted, but sometimes there are severe restrictions. Also, strange questions arise.
Many Chinese and Indian people went to Africa to support the English colonies, who had never stepped foot on English soil. When the African country declared independence and expelled these people, where could they go? Should they be sent back to their ancestral country (which they had never been to), or can they select to go to the UK, since they supported an infrastructure that helped the UK in the long run?
Not everyone who was in the UK stayed. For all the immigrations, the emigration of white English people continues. Some people want other opportunities and to be in places where there is more land.
This is a important book to read. You will not only learn history from a more personal experience but also become aware of how the immigrant experience can reshape a country.
Labels: Robert Winder