Commonwealth Communities: Migration and Racial Thinking in Twentieth Century Britain

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

32 Downloads (Pure)


Saima Nasar’s chapter focuses on the 1948 British Nationality Act, which was in part a response to the 1946 Canadian Citizenship Act that made British subjecthood secondary to Canadian nationality. Strikingly, the 1948 legislation continued to acknowledge a common set of rights and obligations for all Commonwealth subjects, thereby con rming shared citizenship for all United Kingdom and ex-imperial persons. This was, on the face of it, a liberal measure but also one that reaf rmed waning British pretensions to imperial suzerainty through citizenship. As Nasar shows, a racialised reaction to this inclusiveness took the form of anti-immigrant agitation in the 1950s against ‘ oods’ of incomers in cities like Nottingham and London. The 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act was perhaps the rst legislative mechanism which discriminated on the basis of colour and origin. Following Enoch Powell’s incendiary 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, further legislative measures eroded the status of Commonwealth citizenship by restricting rights of entry to Britain. The 1960s Commonwealth immigration acts, Nasar argues, prompted and re ected profound tensions in the idea of Britain as a multi-cultural society. They also highlighted divisions within the idea of Britishness with respect to the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ Commonwealth and was in turn in ected by the ‘turn to Europe’ and away from the Commonwealth by the late 1960s.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCommonwealth History in the Twenty-First Century
EditorsSaul Dubow, Richard Drayton
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-41788-8
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-41787-1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2020

Publication series

NameCambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Black Humanities


Dive into the research topics of 'Commonwealth Communities: Migration and Racial Thinking in Twentieth Century Britain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this