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The ‘Foreigner’ in Britain

July 7, 2017 - July 8, 2017
King’s College London

United Kingdom

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Britain, despite being a ‘fortress built by nature’ in John of Gaunt’s estimation, has historically been shaped by immigration. From the Romans to present-day migration patterns, there has always been an ‘Other’ in Britain, and London’s status as a place of refuge for political exiles goes back centuries. With this history in mind, what constitutes a ‘foreigner’ in Britain, and what meanings does the term evoke? What has their role and identity been in British history? And how has the foreigner, the Other, been seen and represented within Britain? How were Britons, in turn, presented by foreigners?

As Europe and Britain grapple with a global refugee crisis and the aftermath of a referendum on Britain’s relationship with Europe, this conference seeks to investigate the theme of the foreigner in Britain in a historical perspective. By approaching Britain as a site of historical interaction, integration, and exclusion, the conference seeks to bring scholars from different fields together to investigate how British society has historically viewed the foreigner. London has been a temporary stop for political exiles from the Paris Commune and Nazi-occupied Europe, while industrial cities such as Liverpool, Glasgow and Birmingham have developed unique identities through economic immigration. London in turn may have more in common with Europe than with other parts of Britain. If so, what can this tell us about British society and its views on foreigners?

This interdisciplinary conference at King’s College London welcomes proposals for 20-minute papers on the theme of the foreigner in Britain, from all periods of history and with a wide focus. Panel proposals or individual papers are welcome from scholars in all stages of their careers. Please submit your proposal to by 24 February 2017.

Possible topics could include, but are not restricted to:

-          Political exiles in Britain

-          London as a European city

-          Intellectual life of foreigners in Britain

-          Imperial and postcolonial identities

-          Immigrant social, political, and cultural networks

-          Assimilation, exclusion, and national identity

-          Borders, passports, and policing the foreigner

-          Immigration and regional vs. national identities

-          Emigration and the idea of ‘Home’

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