Reviewed by Vivienne Larminie (_Oxford Dictionary of National Biography_ and University of Oxford)
Published on H-Albion (July, 2006)
Over the last twenty or thirty years, the history of immigration to Britain has received steadily increasing attention from scholars and from a wider public. Some authoritative and attractively constructed websites have joined a burgeoning literature, offering information and analysis, and promoting further research. While some published material still conveys an impression that mass migration was a phenomenon novel to the later twentieth century (and a legacy of empire) or, alternatively, to the mid-nineteenth century (as a consequence of rule in Ireland), articles in specialist journals as well as several books now testify to its significance in the early modern period. Yet, as Nigel Goose observes in his introduction to Immigration in Tudor and Early Stuart England, little of this research has appeared in mainstream journals, and a comprehensive survey has yet to appear. This volume of essays does not set out to supply that lack. Instead, it seeks to complement the relatively healthy coverage of the "second" great wave of newcomers to Britain (medievalists might offer a different numbering)--that of French Huguenots in the late seventeenth century. It is conceived as "a first step towards a modern reappraisal of immigrants and their impact" (p. 2) during the "first" wave of mass migration--that of European Protestants in the sixteenth century.
Goose's introduction, the first of his three substantial contributions to the volume, provides an overview not only of the numerical strength, geographical distribution, and timetable of this influx, but also of its English political, religious, economic and social context. While the latter seems to be aimed at an audience without a background knowledge of the period, the laudable concern for completeness in identifying, delineating, and quantifying alien communities scattered across southern and eastern England makes the former demanding reading. Individual statistics are sometimes arresting: at its peak the stranger population in Norwich reached 40 percent of its total inhabitants, and in Sandwich perhaps 50 percent. But the varied nature, activities, and fortunes of different settlements take some digesting. The reception enjoyed by immigrants unsurprisingly depended on local circumstances, but a sustained analysis of those differences, as well as of the "common threads" of experience detected by Goose would have been welcome at some point in the volume. However, he succeeds here in demonstrating that, although their numbers fluctuated markedly over the period, diminishing noticeably in the early seventeenth century, their impact "considerably outweighed their numerical presence" (p. 29).
Where did they come from? Raymond Fagel's essay on immigrants' roots focuses on the Low Countries, apparently the origin of about three-quarters of sixteenth-century incomers. (Investigation of the origins of the sizeable remainder, or at least overt attention to the question of whether their histories were distinctive, would have been a valuable addition elsewhere in the volume.) With his command of Dutch sources, Fagel is in a better position than most to pinpoint the areas from which they came, but it is no easy task. The region's political entities were fluid, the geographical labels migrants adopted or were assigned are difficult to interpret, and there are gaps in the record. Some interesting conclusions emerge, for example, the notable attraction of London for natives of Amsterdam, the hitherto unexpected presence of refugees from Brussels, and, overall, the widely spread points of departure. However, other arguments, such as the importance of areas on the fringes of the Low Countries, remain undeveloped, and such places (Emden, Cleves) are frustratingly absent from the accompanying map. Inconsistencies and obscurities in spelling (for example, Overjissel/Overyssel, Ipres/Ypres), some odd phrasing, and frequent typos in the volume as a whole ("Reforationsgeschichte," p. vii; "a large numbers of urban centres," p. 142; "British Salomon," p. 167), point to the need for more rigorous editing.
Once they had settled in England, newcomers had strikingly few opportunities to make their living legally. As Lien Luu shows in her essay on alien status in London, the route of denization or civic freedom became increasingly expensive, while naturalization was not the option it became for later seventeenth century Huguenots. Without these badges of belonging, and to a degree even with them, restrictions on aliens operating workshops, selling their products, and keeping or serving as apprentices were extremely limiting, at least on paper; and they became tighter in the later sixteenth century. The solution, as revealed by Luu and by Joseph Ward in an essay on the London labor market, was either to evade the law, by working in liberties outside traditional city jurisdictions, or to ignore it. With the connivance of native Londoners, aliens could and did operate covert workshops within legal enterprises; sometimes they flouted regulations more blatantly. Given such collusion and, equally, London's reliance on immigrants, English as well as foreign, to replenish its population and to furnish new skills, it is understandable that the Elizabethan government's attempts to oust foreign merchants from their dominance of overseas trade and the guilds' attempts to enforce their restrictive practices both failed.
Although lacking the visionary self-interested generosity towards industrious settlers exhibited by the newly emerging United Provinces, English governments, like later historians, recognized their contribution to the economy. Goose puts the case for their role in economic development in one chapter (reinvigorating old trades like London brewing, introducing the manufacture of new fabrics, transforming some local economies), although he cautions that their share of trade had diminished by the early-seventeenth century and that they formed only a small proportion of the mercantile community, itself both receptive and innovative in its own right. Immigrant success could breed jealousy, and at times of subsistence or other crises, hostility. Yet English newcomers experienced it too, and serious disorder or violence was rare, while the very collaboration on which success usually depended tells another story. As Goose argues in another chapter, the xenophobia posited by some historians is an epithet too far, except towards Irish and blacks (which again begs the question of their different experience). The case for xenophobia is based, Goose suggests, on selective recounting of alarmist anecdotes. When evidence is, by its nature, unquantifiable, this is an easy trap to fall into: the unfortunate experiences in London of one "D.N.," recounted with little authorial comment elsewhere in the volume, tend to bear this out.
Raingard Esser, surveying some manifestations of immigrant culture from books to Delftware pottery, detects that stranger and native coexisted peacefully. While his appeal to "new cultural history" may not convince all readers, it is clear that Walloon scholarship took discreet root, as in the circle gathered in the London parish of St Dionis Backchurch; secured civic acceptance, as when the unlicensed printer Anthonius de Solempne was commissioned by Norwich city authorities; and gained sufficient self-confidence to advertise their contribution to public life, as in the spectacular tableau designed for the coronation of James I.
The immigrants' places of worship were, according to Andrew Spicer, the most visible expression of their distinctiveness. While the stranger churches, as the only places where aliens gathered as communities, provided the government with channels of control, they could also provoke friction as different traditions shared liturgical space. They stood as beacons of alternative ecclesiological systems, and in time they upset Laudian sensibilities with their minimalist approach to worship and casual approach to the space that housed it. Like Charles Littleton's essay, Spicer's contribution is based on extensive original research; his conclusions are worth more sustained exploration. Taking up a theme introduced earlier in the book, Littleton uses the rich seam of correspondence in church records to trace continuing connections with the continent occasioned by business, family ties, and charitable donation and military assistance to beleaguered brethren. Nervous of the English government's reaction, the churches resisted fraternal invitations to participate in the evolving hierarchical organization of the European Reformed church, but provision of ministers and money was a different matter. Financial support to co-religionists in need actually received official sanction when the Dutch Church in London was entrusted by the government with the coordination of relief from Britain to the Palatinate in 1628 and 1631. A complementary essay by David Trim, largely reprinted from From Strangers to Citizens (2001), argues for significant co-operation between immigrants and natives in the cause of international Calvinism, and for the integration of those from both communities who were most closely involved in the Netherlands campaigns of the late sixteenth century. It fits well in this volume, though more of the further development promised would have been welcome.
A theme throughout the collection is the fluidity of the immigrant population. In one chapter, Luu revisits the fluctuating employment opportunities, trading restrictions, periodic anti-alien feeling, and Laudian onslaught which, together with enticements to re-settle in the Dutch republic, led some in the early seventeenth century to leave their adopted country. In another chapter, reviewing "Alien Immigrants to England One Hundred Years On," she stresses mobility and transience, but also a blurring of boundaries between communities along with increasing integration, leading to the disappearance of some communities. All contributors acknowledge the gaps in the evidence, the fragmentation of scholarship, and the research still awaited. This wave of immigration is still overshadowed by its successor. This volume has perhaps failed to prise from Ole Peter Grell, in whose footsteps it sometimes follows, a claim to have taken a first step towards a modern reappraisal of its chosen period, or from From Strangers to Citizens, which opens out the discussion to Jews and other groups, any claim to demonstrate the potential breadth of the field. It is an uneven collection, which, as indicated, would have been the better for a stronger editorial hand, and even a different structure. Nonetheless, its narrower focus has advantages. It conveniently brings together much valuable material, it highlights important work by non-contributors like Andrew Pettegree and Marcel Backhouse, it offers some interesting insights, and it presents a robust, though also internally challenged, case for cooperation and integration which may well inspire further debate. In short, it makes a worthwhile contribution to the literature and will surely be quarried for arguments, references, and local information. It is to be hoped that at least one of its well-qualified contributors will soon rise to the challenge of a monograph on sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century immigration, European protestant and otherwise, and produce an accessible synthesis of recent scholarship.
. See http://www.movinghere.org.uk/.
. See, Andrew Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities in Sixteenth-Century London (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986); David S. Katz, The Jews in the History of England, 1485-1850 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994); Ole Peter Grell, Calvinist Exiles in Tudor and Stuart England (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1995); Robin Gwynn, Huguenot Heritage: The History and Contribution of the Huguenots in Britain (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2nd ed., 2001) [see, Mary K. Geiter, "Review of Robin Gwynn, Huguenot Heritage: The History and Contribution of the Huguenots in Britain," H-Albion, H-Net Reviews, May, 2002, http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=265211022862154]; Bernard Cottret, The Huguenots in England: Immigration and Settlement, 1550-1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); and Randolph Vigne and Charles Littleton, eds., From Strangers to Citizens: The Integration of Immigrant Communities in Britain, Ireland and Colonial America, 1550-1750 (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2001).
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Vivienne Larminie. Review of Goose, Nigel; Luu, Lien, eds., Immigrants in Tudor and Early Stuart England.
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