Humanities and Arts

Emigration State: Race, Citizenship and Settler Imperialism in Modern British History, c. 1850–1972

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What role did migration play in the making of modern Britain? We now have a good sense of how ethnicity, class, religion and gender structured immigrants' experience and what impact they had on Britain's culture, society and economy. But as Nancy Green pointed out almost two decades ago, scholars of migration must focus on exit as well as entry. Such a call to study ‘the politics of exit’ is especially apposite in the case of the UK. For in every decade between 1850 and 1980 (with the exception of the 1930s), the UK experienced net emigration year on year. This article analyses this outflow of migrants to reveal a new vision of the UK as an ‘emigration state’. The article employs this concept to make a new argument about the formation of migration policy in the UK and offers a revised account of the geographical boundaries of the modern British state.