Nine White Men Armed with Iron Bars

Andy Beckett

  • Lovers and Strangers: An Immigrant History of Postwar Britain by Clair Wills
    Allen Lane, 442 pp, £25.00, August 2017, ISBN 978 1 84614 716 6

In 1964, shortly after getting married and landing the first research fellowship at the new Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham, Stuart Hall, the Jamaican-born analyst of Britain, went looking for somewhere to live. He had already been in Britain for 13 years, in Oxford and London. He wasn’t unaware that prejudice against immigrants existed. But the West Midlands was the first place, he remembered in 1998, where ‘I personally encountered people who said, “We don’t take any blacks here.”’ ‘People shouted at us in the street when we were going round trying to find places,’ he went on, ‘myself and my white wife … She was the particular object of vile remarks about mixed-race couples.’ Hall thought this was ‘a particular kind of resentment’, that some locals already felt ‘left behind by England’ – whether economically or politically, he didn’t say – and, with the arrival of immigrants like him, felt they ‘were going to be left behind in relation to race’ as well. He didn’t consider it a coincidence that the West Midlands produced Enoch Powell.

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