chapter  1
The German colony
Pages 11

The historiography of the German community in London has often been marred by the ideological presuppositions of German nationalist authors. Frequently the history of the exile colony and that of the Germany colony have been blurred, with the highly visible refugees being regarded as representative of the life of all Germans in London.1 There are some good reasons for this confusion. Common parlance is often inaccurate, and we know much more about the experiences of articulate and politically active refugees, for example, than those of the Hessian broom-girls of London. The borderline between émigré and emigrant-the first being abroad for political reasons-is also not always clearly discernible, and people moved from one category into the other (for example Gottfried Kinkel, who remained in Britain after the Prussian amnesty of 1861). But we must distinguish between these groups in order to analyse the politics and the theoretical discussions of the exiles. Clearly the psychological strain of forced residence abroad was far more intense among exiles (a number actually went insane).2 Their means were usually far more slender than those of emigrants, most of whom had chosen London for economic motives, and a preoccupation with speedily returning home rarely improved an exile’s financial situation. But above all a propensity towards intense political involvement was much more pronounced among exiles, who were correspondingly less concerned with integrating into British society and more oriented towards political renewal at home. Most political, but also much social, activity among Germans in London was thus initiated by refugees, who organised meetings, edited newspapers, sent emissaries to Germany, and launched charitable and social organisations.