Panikos Panayi

The Settlement of Germans in Britain
during the Nineteenth Century

Germans have resided in Britain throughout its history. These have included German soldiers serving in the Roman army and the Anglo-Saxon settlers of the fifth century, as well as the Hanseatic merchants of the Middle Ages. From the sixteenth century Protestant refugees entered Britain, fleeing from the instability caused by the religious changes consequent upon the Reformation. By the end of the seventeenth century, a significant German community had developed, consisting mostly of businessmen, mainly from Hamburg, and sugar bakers. Due to numbers and the passage of the religious Toleration Act of 1689, four German churches existed in London by 1700.[1]

During the eighteenth century, the German population of Britain began to increase as a consequence of the growth in emigration from central Europe. A major influx into London occurred in 1708/09 from the Palatinate, partly on the instigation of Queen Anne, who offered to send the newcomers to the British colony in Carolina, but also because of the long-term reduction of size of the land-plots they inherited, as well as short-term religious persecution and an economic crisis in the Palatinate. Eventually between 13,000 and 15,000 Palatines arrived in London, where they faced widespread persecution, which meant that nearly all of them left the capital for a variety of destinations, notably North America and southern Ireland.

The eighteenth century meant the beginning of the patterns of migration of Germans to Britain which would continue after 1800. We can identify three groups consisting of merchants, who moved to the country for a variety of reasons, including the opportunities offered by industrialisation; transmigrants, travelling through Britain on their way to North America; and craftsmen who had a desire to remain in the country. Within the last group we can include sugar bakers, who worked in London from the mid-eighteenth century, but whose numbers increased further during the Napoleonic Wars. They mainly settled where they worked in east London. In addition to the three groups outlined above we can also point to the expansion of the eighteenth-century German-Jewish community, as well as an influx connected with the accession to the throne of the House of Hanover. Perhaps the most prominent German here was the composer Georg Friedrich Händel. The growth of the German population of London during the eighteenth century led to the foundation of a new church in Little Alie Street, Whitechapel, which still exists, and another in Ludgate Hill. Later, in 1809, a German Catholic congregation came into existence. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Society of Friends of Foreigners in Distress, an essentially German charity, had also been founded. Meanwhile, St. Mary’s Church had a school connected to it from 1708 as did St. George’s in Little Alie Street from 1805. At the same time, the Ashkenazi Jewish community had also developed its own institutions by the early nineteenth century, including a hospital, free school, and ladies benevolent society.[2]

The Migration Process

It is impossible to establish the number of Germans living in Britain during the eighteenth century, because of the absence of censuses. Although the first British census dates from 1801, the first which counted immigrants on a nation-wide scale did not occur until 1861. From that time until 1891, Germans formed the largest continental grouping in the country. After that time, they came second to the Russian Jewish immigrants. Thus, the number of Germans in England and Wales increased from 28,644 in 1861 to 53,324 in 1911, the peak figure before 1914.[3]

The number of Germans who entered Britain during the nineteenth century probably exceeded the entire total who made their way to the country during the previous thousand years. However, attempting to explain the reasons for the nineteenth-century influxes proves difficult and we need a theoretical background to avoid a purely descriptive account. Rather than accepting traditional or Marxist arguments, we can best construct a theoretical framework which recognises the existence of push, enabling and pull factors, which are further conditioned by the nature of the migration, whether economic or political, and which accepts three levels of causation: underlying, medium-term and personal. These ideas do not represent a model, but simply allow for a structured understanding of the reasons for German migration to Britain.

We can begin with economic causation, focusing initially upon push factors. The most fundamental socio-economic development in nineteenth-century Germany and the deepest underlying factor for the process of emigration was the enormous expansion in population which meant an increase from 24,831,000 in 1816 to 64,568,000 in 1910, using the German boundaries of 1910.[4] The consequences of this growth combined with a lack of economic opportunities were overpopulation on the land. Against this we need to superimpose other underlying factors such as patterns of landownership. In the southwest of Germany, from where emigration took off in the first half of the nineteenth century, equal distribution of land led to »fragmented agricultural lands into a multitude of tiny holdings […] which were ordinarily barely able, and often unable, to support the families which depended upon them«.[5] In northeast Germany, to which emigration spread during the course of the nineteenth century, the inheritance system gave land to the eldest son, which, in many cases meant that, for the rest of the sons, »there was only one way of maintaining their social and economic status and way of life: the exodus to the new world«.[6]

We also need to recognise another underlying factor in the form of changes in the system of production, which essentially refers to the industrialisation process. This had various effects. In the first place, during the early nineteenth century, British industrialisation meant the undercutting and destruction of cottage industries producing textiles in the west of Germany, leading to unemployment and consequent migration.[7] However, in the long run German industrialisation acted more positively in the sense that by the end of the nineteenth century it could absorb the country’s excess population, which no longer needed to move to the U.S.A., the main destination of German emigrants.[8]

The above acted as the long-term underlying economic push factors which led to emigration from Germany. In addition, medium-term motivations played a role, as movement out of Germany was not a steady stream but a series of peaks. The first, minor one, occurred immediately after the end of the Napoleonic period against the background of the post-war agricultural crisis and recession.[9] A larger peak of emigration took place in the years 1846–57 during the mid-nineteenth century European socio-economic crisis which we can describe as the first crisis of capitalism, which was coupled with agricultural failures all over the continent. Reactions to this development varied from one state to another but the most common manifestations of discontent were revolution or emigration. Germany, perhaps almost uniquely in this sense, experienced both phenomena.[10] Emigration further resembled revolution in the sense that both became movements. The former involved the development of emigration newspapers and societies.[11] The final two peaks of German emigration during the nineteenth century, 1864–73 and 1880–93, were essentially caused by booms in the U.S. economy which had the power to suck in millions of immigrants from all over the European continent[12], although the first was also partly influenced by the German Wars of Unification.[13] In all, around five million people left Germany during the nineteenth century.[14]

However, the vast majority made its way to the U.S.A. Our task is to establish the reasons why a tiny minority made its way to Britain by examining the economic pull factors which attracted people to the country. In fact, we can begin by dealing with an enabling factor which proved fundamental for economic immigrants who made their way to Britain in the form of transatlantic shipping lines which involved a stop in Britain. We can first point to the fact that during the nineteenth century the journey across the Atlantic became quicker, cheaper and safer, while the development of railways, canals, and improvement in river routes, also meant that potential emigrants could reach their port of embarkation more easily.[15] From the 1840s most German emigrants sailed out of Hamburg and Bremen. While many ships, especially those from Bremen, made their way direct to the U.S.A., indirect routes, sailing from Hamburg to east-coast British ports and then by rail to Liverpool remained important throughout the nineteenth century.[16]

Clearly, crossing the Atlantic via England meant a short stop in the country. Did any of the transmigrants decide to settle? This seems difficult to deny. In Liverpool, for instance, some emigrants who found work in the city decided to remain rather than to sail on to North America or Australia.[17] Numerous advertisements were also placed by transatlantic shipping lines in German newspapers in London, offering passages to those in transit, who may have decided to spend a spell in the capital.[18] Furthermore, as late as 1910 the German Society of Benevolence mentioned the presence in London of many German emigrants who had made their way to Britain as part of their journey to the U.S.A. but found that they did not have enough money to make the second part of their trip, consequently remaining in London.[19]

But as well as these temporary immigrants, there also existed more permanent ones. Did any underlying economic pull factor attract them to the country? We might point to the fact that the British economy was more advanced than the German one or that of any other European country, which meant that it acted as a natural magnet for populations from poorer states. However, we should not exaggerate this point, both because Britain did not have the pulling power for immigrants of the much larger U.S. economy, and because Britain had its own surplus population which acted as fodder in the industrialisation process. In fact, Britain was a massive exporter of population for much of the nineteenth century.[20] Individual groups of German economic immigrants entered the country for different reasons during the course of the nineteenth century. Waiters and clerks, for instance, initially made their way to Britain on a temporary basis, with the aim of improving their English so that they could return to Germany and enhance their employment prospects.[21] Brass bands, meanwhile, entered Britain on a seasonal basis for the duration of the summer.[22] German businessmen made their way to Britain for a variety of reasons, including the wish to open branches of existing companies in the English market. During the 1880s and 1890s Jewish bankers moved from Frankfurt into the City of London because they were prepared to transfer to the latter rather than to Berlin, which had replaced Frankfurt as Germany’s banking capital. Other individuals initially entered Britain as clerks and then moved into business on their own account.[23]

Evidence also exists of chain migration into Britain during the nineteenth century. A small number of immigrants from the Osnabrück district entered the country because members of their families already lived there. For instance, Anton Friedrich Schröder emigrated from Quakenbrück in 1866 because of the residence of his brother-in-law in London, while Johann Thies, who left in the same year, had an uncle in London.[24] More solid evidence for chain migration exists in the residence of Germans from particular states in particular areas of Britain. For instance, for much of the nineteenth century east London acted as a focus for natives of Hanover and Hesse.[25]

Clearly the reasons for the movement of German economic immigrants to Britain during the nineteenth century, who formed the overwhelming majority of newcomers, were extremely complex. A similar mixture of motivations determined the movement of the much smaller number of political refugees who made their way to Britain. The underlying push factor was the autocratic system of government. However, German refugees only entered Britain after periods of repression within their own country, and, in some cases, the countries to which they had originally fled. Three main waves of refugees entered Britain. These occurred: firstly, in the 1830s, following the repression of progressive movements, including Young Germany[26]; secondly, in the years immediately following the failure of the 1848 revolu­tions[27]; and, thirdly, as a result of the passage of the Anti-Socialist Laws of 1878.[28]

Britain’s most deep-seated political attractions lay in its liberal system of Government, especially as perceived by Germans, who were attracted by »the vaunted freedoms enjoyed by Britons and denied to Germans in their own country.«[29] More importantly is Britain’s policy of asylum for much of the nineteenth century, which meant that it accepted ›anyone‹, including autocrats, liberals and socialists. This asylum policy concretely manifested itself in the fact that »from 1826 until 1848, and again from 1850 to 1905, there was nothing on the statute book to enable the executive to prevent aliens from coming and staying in Britain as they liked«.[30] Clearly, Germans migrated to Britain for a variety of reasons, and fit fairly neatly into the theoretical framework mentioned above. As well as the underlying causation outlined, examination also needs to be made of the motivations of individual groups at particular periods. In the case of economic immigrants the reasons for movement varied significantly from one group to another.

Settlement Patterns

Throughout the Victorian and Edwardian periods approximately 50 per cent of all Germans in England and Wales resided in London, where the German population rose from 16,082 in 1861 to 27,290 in 1911.[31] Within the capital particular areas of concentration had developed. The first of these consisted of the East End, which had a German population from the eighteenth century, focused upon Whitechapel, St. George’s in the East and Mile End. The main attractions of this part of London lay in both the existence of sugar refineries and »on account of its being surrounded by the various docks, and consequently being the landing place of almost all foreigners«. With the passage of time, movement took place out of the core part of inner east London towards Hackney, due to the decline of sugar baking, railway construction, and the influx of east European Jews, although a German community remained centred around Leman Street at the turn of the century.[32]

Major focuses of German settlement also developed in the West End of London. The first of these, especially important during the mid-nineteenth century, centred upon Soho and was one of the areas of settlement for refugees.[33] By the end of the Victorian period, a new area of German settlement had developed around Goodge Street and Mortimer Street, »the south-western corner of St. Pancras; that is, the angle bounded by Tottenham Court Road, Cleveland Street, and Euston Road«. The reason for the growth of this working-class community lay in its proximity to »the West End houses of business« because »tailors and kindred tradespeople who bring their work home, of necessity, try and live near the district, because of the difficulty of getting a distance«. English contemporaries also pointed to the fact that Germans in this area lived in poor housing conditions and to the fact that it attracted prostitutes, again connected with its proximity to the West End.[34] The main middle-class German community lay in Sydenham in southwest London, although others also existed in the north of the capital in Islington, of a mostly petty-bourgeois nature, and Hampstead.[35]

Outside the capital tiny German communities developed in a few northern cities. Manchester, for instance, had the second largest community in 1911, counting 1,318. Constituent parts of the Manchester German community included Jews, middle-class businessmen, and people lower down on the social scale. A similar mixture existed in the smaller community in Bradford. The German community of Hull (855 in 1911) developed both due to the fact that the town lay on the route for transmigrants to the U.S.A. and to the fact that it was visited by German sailors. The same reasons explain the development of the largest provincial German community in Britain, which lay in Liverpool (1,326). However, this also counted an important group of merchants, as well as attracting sugar bakers in the early part of the nineteenth century. Smaller German communities also existed in other provincial centres.[36]

Social and Economic Patterns

Age and sex structures of Germans in nineteenth-century Britain reveal the following patterns. Between 1861 and 1911 males made up about two thirds of German immigrants in Britain, a figure which decreased from 69 per cent in 1861 to 63 per cent in 1911. The percentage of children under fifteen declined from 6.7 per cent in 1861 to 2.9 per cent fifty years later. These figures suggest that Germans, whether male or female, tended to move to Britain as unmarried individuals, because any children which they had within the country became British because of nationality laws based upon jus soli.[37] The gender structure, while uneven, did allow scope for Germans to marry each other, as well leading to intermarriage of German males with English women.[38]

The German communities which existed in nineteenth-century Britain counted people on every rung of the social ladder from the underclass to the middle classes, reflecting the divisions of the German settlements. Few other immigrant groupings in Britain before 1914 counted such a diverse number of occupations and social groups. The underclass counted three major strands. The first of these consisted of the poor, made up of a variety of people including: those who had moved to Britain and then found difficulty in obtaining employment; individuals who did have steady employment but then faced problems due to a general economic downturn or a deterioration in the employment prospects of their trade; and the old. The 1880s resulted in the highest peak in the numbers of German poor in London, connected with the general economic downturn of that decade.[39]

The second strand of the German underclass consisted of criminals. Leopold Katscher believed that »an astonishing number of swindlers and impostors exist among the Germans of London«, while a report on the German Catholics in London from the 1860s claimed that people who had committed crimes in Germany continued with the same activities once they had arrived in London. Lucio Sponza, meanwhile, has revealed that the main criminal activities of Germans in London consisted of larceny, receiving of stolen goods, housebreaking, forgery, and crimes against the person.[40] Germans also became involved in prostitution either as pimps and brothel keepers or as prostitutes. Much information survives on the last of these. Women became involved in this trade either by answering bogus advertisements in German newspapers, which offered them respectable employment, or by being enticed upon their arrival in London, where the major area of their activities consisted of Leicester Square.[41]

The major London German occupation for much of the Victorian period consisted of sugar baking. Working conditions in this trade were severe, with Germans enduring excessive heat. But by the First World War Germans were no longer employed in this activity due to its decline in the East End.[42] Germans were also involved in various forms of footwear and clothing production in mid-nineteenth century London, where they faced similar exploitation to that in sugar baking. The production of skin and fur offered employment in Whitechapel during the 1850s, with wages ranging from 18 to 50 shillings a week, according to the time of year.[43] In footwear production German women could earn as little as eight shillings per week for a twelve hour day, while male income could reach 21 shillings.[44] Conditions remained similar until the turn of the century.[45] By the outbreak of the First World War waiting had become the most important German occupation, with Germans making up about 10 per cent of waiters and waitresses involved in restaurant work according to the 1911 census. In contrast to Englishmen, they worked longer hours and relied on tips, earning up to £2 per week. They had also received a formal education within Germany and therefore had a reputation for ›civility‹. Many Germans progressed to become hotel and restaurant managers and would employ their own countrymen.[46] Sailors represented a significant, although temporary, component of the German communities in nineteenth-century Britain. According to the Annual Report of the German Evangelical Seaman’s Mission for 1910, 38,492 sailors used its reading rooms at the ports at which it worked throughout the country, which, at the outbreak of the First World War, totalled fifty.[47]

A series of occupational groups counted both working-class and middle-class members. The first of these consisted of musicians, where the two class groups had no connections at all, consisting of brass bands, performing in the streets, and serious orchestral players. The former included youths between the ages of twelve and fourteen who were imported by a master and then faced exploitation. However, other street musicians fared better. They could be found throughout the country.[48] German orchestral players, meanwhile, constituted a significant component of several British orchestras during the Victorian and Edwardian periods, notably the Halle Orchestra, founded and conducted until his death by Sir Charles Halle, a German in Manchester.[49] Butchers, bakers and hairdressers counted Germans both within the working classes and the petty bourgeoisie in the form of shopkeepers on a small scale, and had become especially important in these trades by the start of the twentieth century. In all three cases Germans had a desire to establish their own businesses after their arrival in Britain, and employed their own countrymen once they had done so. Conditions for employees in baking were as bad as those for Germans involved in clothing. After importing German agricultural labourers, German masters would simply provide their new employees with food and lodging for two years, then »having picked up a few ideas about the trade they would go elsewhere and get a place for about 18/- a week‹«, after which »their thrift pushes them on to become masters in a small way and so they progress«. They could work up to 112 hours per week.[50] In hairdressing Germans had »the reputation of being more industrious, more cleanly, and more sober« than natives.

While some Germans may have entered the country as unskilled agricultural labourers, others had already received a full training before they moved. Working hours amongst Germans became excessive with some shops staying open after 9 p.m. on weekdays, as well as working on Sundays.[51] Little information survives on butchers although they did exist throughout the country.[52] German employees clearly suffered from exploitation, usually from their own countrymen, both in terms of the pay they received and the hours which they worked, especially in the early stages of their residence within Britain, although many subsequently progressed to own their own businesses. Germans supplied the cheapest form of employment for most of the nineteenth century, although by the turn of the century they had been replaced by Russian Jews.

An examination of the purely middle-class occupations reveals three in which Germans in Britain found a role for most of the nineteenth century: clerical work, teaching, and business, often on a significant scale. In all these cases, in contrast to some of the lower-class occupations, the newcomers had usually become involved in their professions before they had entered the country.

In clerical work, Germans played a particularly important role as foreign correspondence clerks, where, throughout the period 1900–14, they took up fifty per cent of positions because of a lack of language teaching in Britain. In addition, Germans had also received a more thorough training than their English counterparts. As many of them simply moved to Britain to improve their language skills, in the hope of securing better employment upon their return to Germany, often being sponsored by German Mercantile Unions, they worked for lower wages than English employees.[53] In teaching three groups of Germans have been involved. First, governesses, whose initial reason for moving to England often lay, as with clerks, in the desire to improve their English so that they could secure a better position on their return to Germany, although, in reality, many remained. German governesses had the advantage of a command of foreign languages over English ones, although they did not lead ›comfortable‹ lives either in terms of their salary or their position within the family for which they worked.[54] The second strand of Germans involved in teaching in nineteenth-century Britain consisted of male tutors who worked either in schools or for families.[55] Finally, Germans also obtained University posts throughout the nineteenth century, especially in the teaching of their own language, but also as Orientalists.[56] The third strand of the German middle classes in Britain encompassed businessmen, many of whom were highly successful. Areas of particular importance included banking where notable names were Schröder, Speyer, Rothschild, Cassel and Japhet. Many Germans became involved in the production of a variety of textiles including linen in Dundee, lace in Nottingham, worsted in Bradford and cotton in Manchester. A smaller number of Germans moved into the chemical industry, most notably Ludwig Mond. Meanwhile, Hugo Hirst, Gustav Bing, Charles Kayser, Sir Joseph Jonas and Paul Kuehnreich became involved in various branches of the engineering and metallurgical industries.[57]

Ethnic Organisations

All ethnic groups during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from all destinations and in all new locations, have attempted to recreate, in some way, the conditions of their land of origin, despite the fact that, by migrating, they have fundamentally cut themselves off from their homelands. One of the main ways in which they attempt to do this is through the creation of religious, philanthropic, cultural, trade-union and political activities.

However, it proves impossible to speak of a single German ethnicity in nineteenth-century Britain, because of the numerous ways in which Germans divided. First, along class lines as the cultural bodies indicate. The ›Vereine‹ in central London, Manchester or Bradford remained exclusive, serving the richest members of German society within those cities, just as similar organisations in Whitechapel served the local communities of sugar bakers, tailors or bakers, or as the trade-union organisations catered for working-class members of a particular occupation. Even in religion, certainly within London, a similar division developed, as churches existed on a geographical basis, serving the local community. In the provinces this differed because the size of the German community meant that only one church could exist in cities such as Hull, Bradford or Middlesborough, catering for all classes of the German population. At the same time, we can point to the existence of welfare organisations which linked all members of the German community, but in a clearly hierarchical manner, in which the wealthy members of the community assisted their poorer countrymen, therefore essentially maintaining class divisions. But class did not serve as the only division amongst the German communities in nineteenth-century Britain. Frederick C. Luebke’s assertion that »few ethnic groupings in America have been as varied in religious belief, political persuasion, socio-economic status, occupation, culture, and social character as the Germans are«[58], applies equally to their countrymen within Britain. Politically, for instance, Germans in Britain, during the nineteenth century as a whole, developed a range of groups which included left-wing anarchists and communists, liberals, and right-wing pan-Germanists and supporters of the German Navy League. In religion the newcomers included Jews, Catholics and Protestants. German newcomers did not remain tied to any one organisation but could belong to a trade union, club and church.

Religion represented the most important focus of ethnic activity, a fact recognised by two pioneers in the field of ethnicity in the U.S.A., Will Herberg and Oscar Handlin. The latter described religion as »paramount« in the way of life of the immigrants, while Herberg believed that the »first concern of the immigrants was with their churches«.[59] In 1815 there existed within London five German Protestant churches and one Catholic place of worship, as well as Ashkenazi synagogues all over the country attended by German Jews. The Protestant London Churches underwent several developments during the course of the nineteenth century including a change in location away from the City and Westminster to the new focuses of German population in the East End and West End of London. In addition, they all founded schools and other philanthropic organisations on a significant scale, with the exception of the Court Chapel which closed in 1901. However, new German places of worship sprang up in other parts of London. These included the German congregation in Forest Hill, established to serve the middle-class population in that area, as was the Church in Denmark Hill, while Christ’s Church in Kensington opened in 1904 as a replacement for the Court Chapel. Earlier, in 1857, an Evangelical Church had been established in Islington to serve the German petty-bourgeois communities of clerks, governesses and artisans in north London. In addition, in 1849 the pastors of the German churches in London had founded the German Mission Among the Poor in London.[60]

Outside the capital all of the major German settlements developed places of worship. Manchester, for instance, had three Protestant churches by the end of the nineteenth century, whose congregations divided upon geographical and class lines.[61] German Protestant services in Liverpool had begun in the 1840s to serve visiting sailors, and by the late Victorian period the congregation averaged 300. The church developed a wide range of parish activities in the form of missionary and educational work.[62] Other important congregations developed in Hull, Sunderland, Bradford, Edinburgh and Birmingham.[63] Any attempt to measure the precise number of German Lutheran and Evangelical churches proves difficult, but a snapshot from 1913 lists fifteen locations in London and thirteen outside the capital. In 1914, 26 German pastors held positions in Great Britain.[64] By this time the Association of German Evangelical Congregations in Great Britain and Ireland had come into existence.[65] Only one German Catholic church existed in nineteenth-century London, St. Bonifacius, established in 1809. Over the next hundred years, it changed location several times, especially within the East End. However, it carried out a large number of activities, revolving around education and the seeking out of German Catholics for the congregation. By the Edwardian period it had societies aimed at female servants, the support of families, the maintenance of faith amongst families, and social activities encompassing men and women, businessmen and young women.[66] German Jews, meanwhile, tended to either join synagogues with their co-religionists from England or other parts of Europe[67], or assimilated fairly rapidly.[68] Only two Jewish places of worship, in Dundee and Bradford, were established by German Jewish immigrants.[69]

Despite the religious divisions amongst Germans in nineteenth-century Britain, the development of philanthropic organisations suggests a more unified ethnic group in the sense that many of the bodies established could encompass all religious denominations and suggest an all-embracing ethnicity which transgresses class lines. However, we should also recognise, as indicated above, that philanthropy stresses class differences, with the rich giving to the poor.

The most important benevolent bodies established included charities, the most famous of which were the German Society of Benevolence, the Society of Friends of Foreigners in Distress, and Libury Hall. The first two of these offered financial assistance to Germans, while the third almost served as a German workhouse for the indoor relief of paupers.[70] In 1845 the German Hospital was opened in Hackney, although it catered for both German immigrants and native patients.[71] We can also point to the German Old People’s Home, as well as the German Orphanage.[72] From 1860 there also existed a German Young Men’s Christian Association in the City of London.[73] By the end of the nineteenth century, the German Evangelical ›Seemannsmission‹ had also come into existence with the aim of protecting German sailors visiting England from the dangers they faced and caring for their physical and spiritual well-being.[74] In addition, though not strictly philanthropic, there also existed four independent schools, catering for the sons and daughters of the German middle classes.[75]

During the course of the nineteenth century countless German newspapers existed in London, covering all aspects of German life including religion, trade organisations and politics, many of them having short print runs. The three longest-running German newspapers in Victorian and Edwardian London, all still in existence at the outbreak of the First World War, consisted of: ›Die Finanzchronik‹, a financial weekly launched in 1895; the ›Londoner General Anzeiger‹, which began in 1889 and concentrated upon major British news stories as well as those affecting the British community; and the ›Londoner Zeitung‹, originally founded as ›Hermann‹ in 1858 for liberal refugees from the 1848 revolutions, but subsequently broadening its scope.

Newspapers reflect the divisions of Germans in nineteenth-century Britain, as do, fundamentally, cultural organisations, which stress, as much as any other form of activity, class differences. Working-class bodies, about which relatively little information survives, were locally based and often met in pubs. The activities they pursued included bowling, education, sport and singing.[76] More information survives on the exclusive middle-class clubs which existed in most cities with German populations in nineteenth-century Britain. In London, we can begin by mentioning the Goethe Society whose membership also included natives.[77] More importantly, we can point to the German Atheneum, established in 1869 and one of the most exclusive of German societies. The German Gymnastic club, or ›Turnverein‹, opened in 1859, aimed at improving the physical well-being of middle-class Germans in London, although it also possessed a library and held literary meetings.[78] Outside the capital, Manchester developed a middle-class German cultural life resembling London’s. Its most famous club consisted of the ›Schiller-Anstalt‹, established in 1860 and counting Frederick Engels and Charles Halle among its members although by 1911 it had ceased to exist.[79] The Manchester ›Turnverein‹ began in 1860 and continued until the outbreak of the First World War, devoting much attention to the organisation of celebrations and excursions.[80] Bradford middle-class organisations included the ›Schillerverein‹ from 1861 and the ›Liedertafel‹ from 1846[81], while the major societies in Liverpool were the ›Liederkranz‹ and ›Deutscher Club‹.[82]

Organisations also developed for Germans working in particular occupations. The Association of German Governesses, established in 1876, acted as a benevolent society and employment agency.[83] For barbers and hairdressers the London Concordia and the International Union of Journeymen Hairdressers carried out similar functions.[84] A large number of organisations existed for German waiters in Britain, most notably, at the end of the nineteenth century, the London branch of the International Hotel Employees Society and the London Hotel and Restaurant Employees Society.[85]

A wide range of political groupings developed in Victorian and Edwardian Britain, which served to bring German immigrants together. In 1834 a branch of Young Germany existed in London.[86] A more important grouping came into existence in 1840 in the form of the communist German Workers Educational Association, with the aim of making workers politically conscious. It survived until the First World War.[87] The Fraternal Democrats, meanwhile, brought together exiles from a variety of nations in London during the years before the outbreak of the 1848 revolutions.[88] The Communist League also operated in London in the 1840s and 1850s.[89] Furthermore, Liberal exiles from 1848 established the German Agitation Union of London and the Emigration Club.[90] Following the passage of the Anti-Socialist Laws in 1878 a series of anarchist groupings developed clubs in London which served not just as meeting places for the discussion of politics but also provided education and social activities such as singing and dancing.[91] By the beginning of the twentieth century right-wing nationalistic pressure groups had also developed branches in Britain, notably the Navy League, with supporters in London and Glasgow, together with the German Colonial Society with a branch in London.[92]

The most striking fact about Germans in nineteenth-century Britain, as this article has stressed, is that we cannot refer to a single immigrant community but, rather, to a whole series of them divided in a variety of ways. In the first place the reasons for migration distinguished the newcomers. While underlying factors of population growth and socio-economic change may have played a role in the decision of all Germans who migrated to Britain, the equation is far more complex. The most obvious division here involves political and economic refugees. But within each grouping, there exist subgroups. In the first case they divide along ideological lines. In the case of economic immigrants, who formed the vast majority of Germans in Britain, the reasons for entry were extremely complex and can only be fully understood by making distinctions in terms of time period, geographical origin, and class.

If we turn to the structure of German immigrants in nineteenth-century Britain, we find that class and occupation were the most important dividing lines, affecting other issues, such as geographical location, so that rich Germans in London would not live in the same areas of the metropolis as their poorer compatriots. The class structure of German immigrants in Victorian and Edwardian Britain was complete, ranging from the sub-proletariat to a financial middle class and encompassing a wide variety of occupational groups in between. Class affected ethnicity, in the sense that most activities occurred upon a class basis. With regard to social clubs, for instance, it was impossible for an East End sugar baker to attend the German Atheneum. Similarly, philanthropy stressed rather than broke down class barriers. However, we also need to recognise religious differences, together with political ones, as factors in the division of Germans in Victorian and Edwardian Britain.

Nevertheless, in analysing German immigrants to Britain we can refer to a single German society in nineteenth-century Britain which reflected both the country from which it originated and the country in which it settled. The religious divisions came almost entirely from the former, while the political ones also originated mostly in Germany, although these mirrored Britain’s political parties, except in the greater importance of extremism amongst Germans in Britain. Finally, in terms of class, this reflected both British and, by the end of the nineteenth century, German society, which had, by that time become a mature industrial society. Thus while we need to recognise the divisions within German society in nineteenth-century Britain, we must also bear in mind that it reflects the established norms in both Britain and Germany. Within the latter, the other major immigrant groups in Victorian and Edwardian Britain, the Irish and, more especially, the Jews, displayed a similarly complex structure.[93] We can view immigrants as one part of the mosaic of nineteenth-century British society.


Schriften des Instituts für Migratio

[1]          See Panikos Panayi, Germans in Britain’s History, in: idem (ed.), Germans in Britain since 1500, London 1996, pp. 1–6.

[2]          Idem, Germans in Eighteenth-Century Britain, in: ibid., pp. 29–48.

[3]          Census of England and Wales for the Year 1861, vol. 2, London 1863, p. lxxv; Census of England and Wales, 1891, vol. 3, London 1893, p. xxxvi; Census of England and Wales, 1911: Birthplaces, London 1913, p. xviii.

[4]          John E. Knodel, The Decline of Fertility in Germany, 1871–1939, Princeton 1974, p. 32.

[5]          Mack Walker, Germany and the Emigration 1816–1885, Cambridge, Mass. 1964, p. 3.

[6]          Klaus J. Bade, German Emigration to the United States and Continental Immigration to Germany in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, in: Central European History, 13. 1980, pp. 348–377, here pp. 360f.

[7]          Walter D. Kamphoefner, At the Crossroads of Economic Development. Background Factors Affecting Emigration from Nineteenth Century Germany, in: Ira D. Glazier/ Luigi D. Roza (eds.), Migration Across Time and Nations. Population Mobility in Historical Contexts, New York 1986, pp. 174–178.

[8]          Wilhelm Mönckmeier, Die deutsche überseeische Auswanderung, Jena 1912, pp. 27f.; Bade, German Emigration to the United States, pp. 362–365.

[9]          Günter Moltmann (ed.), Aufbruch nach Amerika. Friedrich List und die Auswanderung aus Baden und Württemberg 1816/17. Dokumentation einer sozialen Bewe­gung, Tübingen 1979.

[10]         This crisis is discussed by James J. Sheehan, German History 1770–1866, Oxford 1989, pp. 453–504, 637–653.

[11]         Peter Marschalck, Deutsche Überseewanderung im 19. Jahrhundert, Stuttgart 1973, pp. 19, 21.

[12]         Reinhard R. Doerries, German Transatlantic Migration from the Early 19th Century to the Outbreak of World War II, in: Klaus J. Bade (ed.), Population, Labour and Migration in 19th and 20th Century Germany, Leamington Spa 1987, pp. 115–134, here pp. 124f.

[13]         Friedrich Burgdörfer, Migration Across the Frontiers of Germany, in: Walter F. Willcox (ed.), International Migrations, vol. 2, London 1969, pp. 313–389, here p. 343.

[14]         Dudley Baines, Emigration from Europe, 1815–1930, London 1991, p. 9, gives a figure of 4.8 million for the period 1815–1930, while Ernst Franz Weisl, Die Auswanderungsfrage, Berlin 1905, p. 3, speaks of 5,146,528 German emigrants between 1820 and 1904.

[15]         J.D. Gould, European Inter-Continental Emigration 1815–1914. Patterns and Causes, in: Journal of European Economic History, 8. 1979, pp. 611–615.

[16]         Maldwyn A. Jones, The Role of the United Kingdom in the Transatlantic Emigrant Trade, 1815–1875, unpublished D. Phil. thesis, University of Oxford 1955.

[17]         Albert E. Rosenkranz, Geschichte der deutschen evangelischen Kirche zu Liverpool, Stuttgart 1921, p. 49.

[18]         See, for instance, Londoner Courier, 28 January, 12 March 1884.

[19]         Bundesarchiv (BA), Coblenz, R 57 neu, 1065/3: Jahresbericht der Deutschen Wohl­tätigkeitsgesellschaft in London 1910–11.

[20]         Colin Holmes, John Bull’s Island. Immigration and British Society, 1871–1971, London 1988, pp. 14f.

[21]         For waiters see: British Library of Political and Economic Science (BLPES), Booth Collection, Group B, vol. 159, p. 43; and London Hotel and Restaurant Employees Gazette, 6 September 1890. Information on clerks can be found in: Clerks Journal, 1 March 1889; Report on the Early Training of the German Clerk, Parliamentary Papers, vol. LXXVII, 1889; National Review, March 1910.

[22]         Musical Herald, 1 December 1899; George B. Gardiner, The Home of the German Band, in: Blackwood’s Magazine, 17. 1902, pp. 451–465.

[23]         Stanley D. Chapman, The International Houses. The Continental Contribution to British Commerce, 1800–1860, in: Journal of European Economic History, 19. 1977, pp. 15, 19, 21–23; idem, The Rise of Merchant Banking, London 1984, pp. 5–48, here pp. 50f.

[24]         Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv, Osnabrück, Verzeichnis der Auswanderungskonsense, Nos. 2136, 5150.

[25]         Jerome Farrell, The German Community in 19th Century East London, in: East London Record, 13. 1990, pp. 2–8, here p. 4.

[26]         Werner Brettschneider, Entwicklung und Bedeutung des deutschen Frühsozialismus in London, Bottrop 1936.

[27]         The most concise history is Rosemary Ashton, Little Germany. Exile and Asylum in Victorian England, Oxford 1987.

[28]         The best account is Ignaz Auer, Nach zehn Jahren. Material und Glossen zur Geschichte des Sozialistengesetzes, Nürnberg 1913.

[29]         Ashton, Little Germany, p. 38.

[30]         Bernard Porter, The Refugee Question in Mid-Victorian Politics, Cambridge 1979, pp. 1–3.

[31]         Census 1861, p. lxxv; Census 1911, p. xviii.

[32]         London City Mission Magazine, 2 January 1865; Charles Booth, Life and Labour of the People in London, First Series, vol. 1, London 1902, pp. 102f, 112; BA, Potsdam, Auswärtiges Amt (AA), 38981: The Twenty-Third Annual Report of the Mission Among the German Poor in London and the School in Connection with it, 1882; Count E. Armfelt, German London, in: George R. Sims (ed.), Living London, vol. 3, London 1903, pp. 57–62, here p. 57.

[33]         Asa Briggs, Marx in London. An Illustrated Guide, London 1982, pp. 23, 36, 37.

[34]         Armfelt, German London, p. 62; Report of the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration, vol. 3, pp. 443, 652, Parliamentary Papers, vol. 9, 1903.

[35]         William F. Brand, London Life Seen with German Eyes, London 1902, p. 117.

[36]         For the size of German communities in provincial centres see Census of England and Wales, 1891, vol. 3, London 1893, pp. 300f., 445; Census, 1911, pp. xviii, 166f.; for Manchester see references to Germans in Bill Williams, The Making of Manchester Jewry, 1740–1875, Manchester 1976; for Bradford see Michael Pratt, The Influence of the Germans in Bradford, unpublished BA dissertation, Margaret Macmillan College, Bradford, 1971; for Hull see Deutscher Kirchen-Verein, Bericht des Deutschen Kirchen-Vereins in Hull, Hull 1845; Liverpool is covered by Rosenkranz, Geschichte der deutschen evangelischen Kirche zu Liverpool.

[37]         These figures are deducted from: Census, 1861, vol. 2, p. lxxvii; Census of England and Wales, 1871, vol. 3, London 1872, p. liii; Census of England and Wales, 1881, vol. 3, London 1883, p. liii; Census, 1891, vol. 3, p. xl; Census of England and Wales, 1901: Summary Tables, Area, Housing and Population, London 1903, p. 266; Census of England Wales, 1911: Summary Tables, London 1915, p. 373.

[38]         I have established marriage patterns by sampling the marriage registers of St. George’s German Lutheran Church in Whitechapel between 1843 and 1896 held in the Tower Hamlets Local History Collection; Panikos Panayi, German Immigrants in Britain during the Nineteenth Century, 1815–1914, Oxford/Washington, D.C. 1995, pp. 109f.

[39]         Idem, The German Poor and Working Classes in Victorian and Edwardian London, in: Geoffrey Alderman/Colin Holmes (eds.), Outsiders and Outcasts. Essays in Honour of William J. Fishman, London 1993, pp. 53–79, here pp. 57–59.

[40]         Leopold Katscher, German Life in London, in: Nineteenth Century, 21. 1887, pp. 726–741, here pp. 733f.; F.X. Kärcher, Bericht über die Mission der deutschen Katholiken, Düsseldorf 1869, p. 9; Lucio Sponza, Italian Immigrants in Nineteenth Century Britain. Realities and Images, Leicester 1988, p. 330.

[41]         Panayi, The German Poor and Working Classes, pp. 60f.

[42]         The best account of sugar bakers is Thomas Fock, Über Londoner Zuckersiedereien und deutsche Arbeitskräfte, in: Zuckerindustrie, 3. 1985, pp. 233–235, 5. 1985, pp. 426–432.

[43]         Londoner Deutsches Journal, 22 September 1855.

[44]         Ibid., 13 October 1855.

[45]         See, for instance, ibid., 20 October 1855; and Royal Commission on Alien Immigration, vol. 2, p. 403.

[46]         Census 1911, Summary Tables, pp. 220–228; Charles Booth, Life and Labour of the People in London, Second Series, vol. 4, London 1902, pp. 232–235; British Library of Political and Economic Science (BLPES), Booth Collection, Group A, vol. 29, pp. 42–44, 52f., 72f.

[47]         BA, Coblenz, R 57, neu, 1065/2: Deutsche Evangelische Seemansmission; Manchester Nachrichten, December 1911.

[48]         London City Mission Magazine, 2 June 1865; Henry Mayhew, The Morning Chronicle Survey of Labour and the Poor. The Metropolitan Districts, vol. 5, London 1981, pp. 2f.

[49]         Brand, London Life, p. 123; Arthur Shadwell, The German Colony in London, in: National Review, February 1896, p. 809; Michael Kennedy, Halle, 1858–1976. A Brief History of the Orchestra’s History, Travels and Achievements, Manchester n.d., pp. 3–11.

[50]         BLPES, Booth Collection, Group A, vol. 22, p. 5, Group B, vol. 127, pp. 45, 63f.; London City Mission Magazine, 2 June 1884.

[51]         Booth, Life and Labour, Second Series, vol. 4, p. 278; BLPES, Booth Collection, Group B, vol. 160, pp. 66f., 87; Shadwell, German Colony in London, p. 809; Hairdresser, 15 March 1912; Stratford Express, 21 November 1908.

[52]         See Rosenkranz, Geschichte der deutschen evangelischen Kirche zur Liverpool, p. 57; and John Markham, Keep the Home Fires Burning, Beverly 1988, p. 32.

[53]         The best account of clerical work is Gregory Anderson, German Clerks in England, 1870–1914. Another Aspect of the Great Depression Debate, in: Kenneth Lunn (ed.), Hosts, Immigrants and Minorities. Historical Responses to Newcomers in British Society, Folkestone 1980, pp. 201–221.

[54]         The best two works on governesses are Julius Einsiedel, Das Gouvernantenwesen in England. Eine Warnung, Heilbronn 1884; and H.Z. König, Authentisches über die deutsche Erzieherin in England. Eine Entgegnung auf: Das Gouvernantenwesen in England, eine Warnung, von Julius Einsiedel, London 1884.

[55]         See BA, Coblenz, R 57 neu, 1064/44/1034, 1035, 1036; BA, Potsdam, AA, 38956: Prospectus of the School Agency in Connection with the German Teachers’ Association, and Rules of the German Teachers Association in England.

[56]         Friedrich Althaus, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Deutschen in England, 1, in: Unsere Zeit, 9. 1873, pp. 436–440; Stuart Wallace, War and the Image of Germany. British Academics 1914–1918, Edinburgh 1988, pp. 160f.

[57]         For general information on German business interests in nineteenth-century Britain see Stanley D. Chapman, Merchants and Bankers from Britain in Germany, in: Werner E. Mosse et. al. (eds.), Second Chance. Two Centuries of German-Speaking Jews in the United Kingdom, Tübingen 1991, pp. 335–346.

[58]         Frederick C. Luebke, Introduction, in: idem (ed.), Germans in the New World. Essays in the History of Immigration, Urbana/Chicago 1990, pp. xiii–xxii, here p. xiii.

[59]         Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted. The Epic Story of the Great Migration that Made the American People, 2nd ed. London 1979, p. 105; Will Herberg, Protestant – Catholic – Jew. An Essay in American Religious Sociology, Chicago 1983, p. 14.

[60]         German religion in nineteenth-century London can be traced in Carl Schöll, Ge­schichte der deutschen evangelischen Kirchen in England, Stuttgart 1852; Heinrich Dorgeel, Die deutsche Colonie in London, London 1881; and Anglo-German Publishing Company, Die deutsche Kolonie in England, London 1913.

[61]         Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Stuttgart: Curt Friese, Some Thoughts on the History of the Germans and their Church Communities in Manchester, unpublished paper, n.d.

[62]         Rosenkranz, Geschichte der deutschen evangelischen Kirche zu Liverpool.

[63]         Brief details of German provincial congregations can be found in Anglo-German Publishing Company, Die deutsche Kolonie in England.

[64]         BA, Coblenz, R 57 neu: Kirchlicher Anzeiger zum Gemeinde-Boten, October 1912; Friedeborg L. Müller, The History of the German Lutheran Congregations in England, 1900–1950, Frankfurt-on-Main 1987.

[65]         Müller, The History of the German Lutheran Congregations, pp. 25–31.

[66]         Georg Timpe, Die deutsche St. Bonifatius Mission in London, 1809–1909, London 1909.

[67]         This happened in Manchester, for which see Williams, The Making of Manchester Jewry, pp. 262, 350f.

[68]         Todd M. Endelman, Radical Assimilation in English Jewish History, 1656–1945, Bloomington/Indianapolis 1990, pp. 114–143.

[69]         C.C. Aronsfeld, German Jews in Dundee, in: Jewish Chronicle, 20 November 1953, p. 20; idem, German Jews in Nineteenth Century Bradford, in: Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 53. 1981, pp. 114f.; M.R. Heilbron, Bradford, in: Aubrey Newman (ed.), Provincial Jewry in Victorian England, London 1975, pp. 1–4.

[70]         For the German Society of Benevolence see Anglo-German Publishing Company, Deutsche Kolonie in England, pp. 42–44; see also, for instance, Society of Friends of Foreigners in Distress, An Account of the Society of Friends of Foreigners in Distress for the Year 1866, London 1866; brief details of Libury Hall can be found in The Times, 13 July 1906; and Morning Post, 3 February 1909.

[71]         Maureen Neumann, An Account of the German Hospital in London from 1845 to 1948, unpublished B.Ed. thesis University of London 1971; Jürgen Püschel, Die Geschichte des German Hospital in London (1845 bis 1948), Münster 1980.

[72]         Dorgeel, Deutsche Colonie in London, pp. 34–37; Anglo-German Publishing Company, Deutsche Kolonie in England, pp. 50f.

[73]         Deutscher Christlicher Verein Junger Männer, Ein Glaubenswerk in der Themse­stadt. Rückblick auf 50 Jahre Vereinsarbeit des Deutschen Christlichen Vereins Junger Männer zu London, London 1910.

[74]         Reinhard Münchmeyer, Handbuch der deutschen evangelischen Seemannsmission, Stettin 1912.

[75]         Johannes Paul Müller, Die deutsche Schulen im Auslande, Breslau 1895, pp. 33–36, 44–46; Allgemeiner Deutscher Schulverein zur Erhaltung des Deutschtums im Aus­lande, Handbuch des Deutschtums im Auslande, Berlin 1906, pp. 461f.

[76]         Armfelt, German London, pp. 60f.

[77]         Günter Hollenberg, Die English Goethe Society und die deutsch-englischen kultu­rellen Beziehungen im 19. Jahrhundert, in: Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesge­schichte, 30. 1978, pp. 39–45.

[78]         Katscher, German Life in London, pp. 728–730.

[79]         Friese, Some Thoughts on the History of Germans; Manchester Nachrichten, August 1911.

[80]         Manchester Nachrichten, November 1910; BA, Coblenz, R 57 neu, 1065/21: Deut­scher Turnverein Manchester, Jahresbericht 1913–1914.

[81]         Aronsfeld, German Jews in Nineteenth-Century Bradford, p. 113; William Cudworth, Musical Reminiscences of Bradford, Bradford 1885, p. 42.

[82]         BA Coblenz, R57 neu, 1064/11: Deutscher Club. Erster Musikalischer Abend am Samstag den 13. Oktober, 1888; BA Coblenz, R57 neu, 1064/17: Statuten des Deut­schen Clubs.

[83]         König, Authentisches über die deutsche Erzieherin, pp. 33–38.

[84]         BLPES, Booth Collection, Group B, vol. 160, pp. 66f.

[85]         Booth, Life and Labour, Second Series, vol. 4, pp. 242f.; London Hotel and Restaurant Employees Gazette, 31 May, 14 June, 1 November 1890.

[86]         J. Watson, Young Germany, London 1844.

[87]         Alexander Brandenburg, Der Kommunistische Arbeiterbildungsverein in London. Ein Beitrag zu den Anfängen der deutschen Arbeiterbildungsbewegung (1840–47), in: International Review of Social History, 14. 1979, pp. 341–370; Hermia Oliver, The International Anarchist Movement in Late Victorian London, London 1983, p. 5.

[88]         Henry Weisser, British Working Class Movements and Europe, 1815–1848, Manchester 1975, pp. 125f., 134–140.

[89]         B. Nicolaevsky, Toward a History of ›The Communist League‹ 1847–1852, in: International Review of Social History, 1. 1956, pp. 234–252.

[90]         Christine Lattek, Die Emigration der deutschen Achtundvierziger in England. Eine reine ›School of Scandal and of Meanness‹?, in: Gottfried Niedhart (ed.), Großbritannien als Gast- und Exilland für Deutsche im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, Bochum 1985, pp. 42–45.

[91]         Oliver, International Anarchist Movement; Rudolf Emil Martin, Der Anarchismus und seine Träger, Berlin 1887, pp. 53–74; for the activities of anarchist clubs see Hermann, 2 January 1869; Londoner General Anzeiger, 2 June 1894; Londoner Zeitung, 9 September 1911.

[92]         Anglo-German Publishing Company, Deutsche Kolonie in England, pp. 74–78.

[93]         Steven Fielding, Class and Ethnicity. Irish Catholics in England, Buckingham 1993; Geoffrey Alderman, Modern British Jewry, Oxford 1992.



[ We are most grateful to both Professor Panikos Panayi, and the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS), for permission to publish this work, which forms part of IMIS - Beiträge, Heft 14, June 2000, and can be downloaded from IMIS - 'Publications'. ]