Memory and context
For some sixty years, workcamp movements flourished in Britain.
But Britain’s workcamps were far from unique. We have already
seen the international nature of the labour colony movement, but
there were similar debates and exchanges, on an even larger scale,
between the wards. In 1935 the International Labour Organisation’s officers detailed camp systems in Austria, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Germany, Poland and South Africa; in the following
year, they added Estonia, France, Japan and Switzerland to
The book provides a comprehensive account of work camp movements in Britain before 1939, based on thorough archival research, and on the reminiscences of participants. It starts with their origins in the labour colony movement of the 1880s, and examines the subsequent fate of labour colonies for the unemployed, and their broadening out as disciplined and closed therapeutic communities for such groups as alcoholics, epileptics, tuberculosis sufferers and the ‘feeble-minded’. It goes on to examine utopian colonies, inspired by anarchist, socialist and feminist ideas, and designed to develop the skills and resources needed for a new world. After the Great War, unemployed camps increasingly focused on training for emigration, a movement inspired by notions of a global British national identity, as well as marked by sharp gender divisions. The gender divisions were further enhanced after 1929, when the world economic crisis closed down options for male emigration. A number of anti-industrial movements developed work camps, inspired by pacifist, nationalist or communitarian ideals. Meanwhile, government turned increasingly to work camps as a way of training unemployed men through heavy manual labour. Women by contrast were provided with a domesticating form of training, designed to prepare them for a life in domestic service. The book argues that work camps can be understood primarily as instrumental communities, concerned with reshaping the male body, and reasserting particularistic male identities, while achieving broad social policy and economic policy goals.
workhouse test on the ‘able-bodied’ male poor.6 In many ways,
early British workcamps – the labour colonies of the 1880s and
early 1890s – were both a reaction against the New Poor Law and
an acknowledgement that the workhouse system had failed. By this
time, Britain was a fully-fledged industrial and urban society, and
most of the male population were employed by others, while most
of the adult female population were working without a wage in the
family home. Britain’s industrial cities, and the rhythms of the trade
cycle, stretched the New Poor Law to breaking point
Camps as social service
and social movement
An extraordinary variety of private and voluntary workcamp
movements flourished in the interwar years. Many young men and
women from the middle and upper classes left their comfortable
homes to live among the poor, labouring through their long vacations to build playgrounds, swimming pools and libraries.1 Others
created or joined workcamps to prepare for a new life, whether as
Jewish settlers, Nordic patriots or English communitarians. Some
had more self-serving motives: in Sussex, a Commander Lacy helped
Instructional Centres under the National Government
work, with each group supervised by a ganger working for the
Ministry. William Heard, a young unemployed man from Ebbw
Vale, remembered that at Shobdon,
It was ‘You, you & you fall in line …’ Some were allocated to do one
particular thing, some another; it was anything to harden yourself.
I always came in for the woodcutting. You used to go out marching
with this crew, marching off, axe on your shoulder and all this business, whatever tools you had to use.71
As in earlier workcamp systems, the work was graded, and allocated on the basis of experience.
middle-class homes. And while workcamps for men
were designed to build muscular bodies and remove them from
urban influences, residential training for women was designed to
remove any sign of industrial ‘roughness’ or dirt, and familiarise
them with life in a suburban middle-class home. Age, gender and
class came together to shape the experiences of unemployed men
and women alike, but they did so in rather different ways, and in
turn provoked rather different responses.
The domestic ideal
Training had long been seen as a way of increasing the supply of
Bordering intimacy is a study of how borders and dominant forms of intimacy, such as family, are central to the governance of postcolonial states such as Britain. The book explores the connected history between contemporary border regimes and the policing of family with the role of borders under European and British empires. Building upon postcolonial, decolonial and black feminist theory, the investigation centres on how colonial bordering is remade in contemporary Britain through appeals to protect, sustain and make family life. Not only was family central to the making of colonial racism but claims to family continue to remake, shore up but also hide the organisation of racialised violence in liberal states. Drawing on historical investigations, the book investigates the continuity of colonial rule in numerous areas of contemporary government – family visa regimes, the policing of sham marriages, counterterror strategies, deprivation of citizenship, policing tactics, integration policy. In doing this, the book re-theorises how we think of the connection between liberal government, race, family, borders and empire. In using Britain as a case, this opens up further insights into the international/global circulations of liberal empire and its relationship to violence.
This work demonstrates that resistance to occupation by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy during the Second World War has to be seen through a transnational, not a national, lens. It explores how people often resisted outside their country of origin because they were migrants, refugees or exiles who were already on the move. It traces their trajectories and encounters with other resisters and explores their experiences, including changes of beliefs, practices and identities. The book is a powerful, subtle and thought-provoking alternative to works on the Second World War that focus on single countries or on grand strategy. It is a ‘bottom up’ story of extraordinary individuals and groups who resisted oppression from Spain to the Soviet Union and the Balkans. It challenges the standard chronology of the war, beginning with the formation of the International Brigades in Spain and following through to the onset of the Cold War and the foundation of the state of Israel. This is a collective project by a team of international historians led by Robert Gildea, author of Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance (Faber & Faber, 2015). These have explored archives across Europe, the USA, Russia and Israel in order to unearth scores of fascinating individual stories which are woven together into themed chapters and a powerful new interpretation. The book is aimed at undergraduates and graduates working on twentieth-century Europe and the Second World War or interested in the possibilities of transnational history.
‘Down with the concentration
Opposition and protest
If they thought at all about workcamps, the comfortably paid and
regularly employed probably saw them as a rather jolly time under
canvas, jollier perhaps than the unemployed deserved. One young
woman student from Edinburgh University told Jack Hoyland that
unemployed ‘lads’ thought of work as ‘a holiday’, offering ‘friendship, freedom, health and discipline’.1 Others took a very different
view; this chapter considers those inside the camps who organised
and participated in protests of different
pendant la guerre en Bosnie’, Raisons Politiques, 41:1 (2011), pp. 13–31.
194 Élisabeth Anstett
acronym GULag (Glavnoe Upravlenie Lagerei: principal camp
authority) initially designated the administrative authority which
oversaw the ITL (Ispravitel’no-Trudovoj Lager), the ‘re-education
through work’ camps. The term came to be used metonymically to
refer to the institution as a whole, covering all the spaces of the Soviet
concentration camp system.
8 An exhaustive list of the camps which operated between 1923 and