Britain’s generous post-war immigration policy

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Lovers and Strangers: An Immigrant History of Post-War Britain. By Clair Wills. Allen Lane; 442 pages; £25.

IN 1956 an airstrip was built on Montserrat. For the first time it was easy to fly to and from the Caribbean island; within five years 30% of its inhabitants had emigrated to Britain. Similar exoduses took place across the world: by 1961 nearly a sixth of those born in the Republic of Ireland lived in Britain. Like a quarter of the population on Earth, the Montserratians and Irish lived in a British colony or former colony. Under the British Nationality Act of 1948, imperial subjects and Commonwealth citizens were entitled to the same rights as anyone born in Britain.

This proved to be short-lived. The Commonwealth “open door”, the subject of Clair Wills’s poignant book, “Lovers and Strangers”, lasted only until 1968. Ms Wills, a Princeton professor, has produced a series of thematic “miniatures” depicting “the…Continue reading

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