Call for Papers April 2014

Responses to Belgian refugees in Britain during the First World War: a
Tuesday 2 September, 2014, 9.30 – 17.30
C1 and C2, Pathfoot Building, University of Stirling
Keynote speakers
Professor Lorna Hughes, University of Wales Chair in Digital Collections, based in the
National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, “Finding Belgian Refugees in
Using digital resources for uncovering the hidden histories of the First World War in Wales”
Dr Rebecca Gill, Lecturer in Modern British History, University of Huddersfield, “Brave
little Belgium arrives in the West Riding ... voluntary action, local politics, and the history of
international relief work”
Call for Papers
The arrival of 250,000 refugees from Belgium was the largest single mass reception of
refugees in British history. Despite accounting for three quarters of those from overseas
resident in Britain during the war (Saunders) there has not been any in depth consideration of
the experiences and wartime treatment of Belgian and the many thousands more refugees and
migrants from allied or neutral nations who lived in or arrived in Britain in the course of the
War (for example, Jewish and various other peoples, including Serbians, fleeing the impact of
war in the Russian empire).
This symposium aims to bring research into ‘official’ responses to Belgian and other refugees
together with consideration of the refugees’ reactions to their residence in wartime Britain.
The history of migrants from enemy nations living in Britain has been well covered by
secondary literature; particularly on the internment and mass deportation of Germans
(Panayi). In contrast, the only full length study in English of Belgian refugees in Britain by
Cahalan focused on the work of middle class philanthropists in assisting the refugees. Yet,
central and local government agencies worked alongside charitable effort to provide the
housing, employment, education and medical care required by Belgian and other refugees.
Belgians sought wartime refuge only, the overwhelming majority had returned home by
1920. This is starkly illustrated by census figures for Belgians living in Britain of 4, 794 in
1911 rising to 9, 892 Belgians in 1921 quoted by Holmes. Mass repatriation of Belgians was
begun at the end of 1918 funded by the Belgian government and administered by the Local
Government Board and Ministry of Transport. This rapid return did not prevent questions in
parliament on the potential cost to Britain of the repatriation process (Kushner). This
symposium aims to shed light on a group whose mass wartime presence is often unremarked
and has been largely unrecorded.
Papers may consider (but are not limited to) the following:
Central government and refugees
Local responses to Belgian and other refugees
Refugee voices
Charitable arrangements
Class, gender and religious difference in the treatment of refugees
Police and press attitudes
Britain’s ‘tradition’ as a place of refuge
Papers of 30 minutes are sought. Please send 250 word abstracts to Dr
Jacqueline Jenkinson by 15 June 2014.
This symposium is free to attend but numbers are limited. To reserve a
place please contact Dr Stuart Salmon Stuart Salmon at:
The symposium is funded by a personal research grant [SG122197] from the British
Academy/Leverhulme Trust – ‘British government policy and reactions towards Belgian
refugees during the First World War.’