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The Renaissance held music in high regard. It played a prominent part in religious, court and civic life. The interchange of ideas in Europe through ever closer economic and political contact brought about the creation of new musical genres, the development of instruments, and the advancement of specialist printing. By about 1500, Franco-Flemish composers dominated the domain. Most prestigious among them was Josquin des Prez who, like fellow artists at the time, travelled widely. The intensity of international encounters led to stylistic developments that have been qualified as truly European. By the beginning of the sixteenth century Antwerp had developed into an international hub of musical activity. The important initiatives were undertaken by the church. Antwerp Cathedral employed twelve choristers who lived in a private house where they received instruction from a singing master. At the beginning of the century this office was held by Jacob Obrecht, famous for his polyphonic compositions. His prolific output consists of some twenty-six masses, thirty-two motets, and thirty secular pieces, not all texted. Antwerp also employed a company of fiddlers for both secular and ecclesiastical performances. Musicians from all over Europe chose Antwerp as their home, amongst them a number of English composers.

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Peter Philips had moved to the Continent as a refugee. He was one of many Catholic musicians who left England for Flanders. A prolific composer of sacred choral music, he was made organist to the Chapel of Archduke Albrecht in Antwerp. In 1593, he travelled from the Southern Netherlands to Amsterdam to ‘see and heare an excellent man of his faculties’. The man he referred to was Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, a composer and organist known as the ‘Orpheus of Amsterdam’. The latter had converted to Calvinism in 1578, but remained sympathetic to his old faith. Another refugee in Flanders was Hereford-born John Bull. Appointed chief musician to Prince Henry in 1611, he furtively disappeared to Flanders after the death of his patron in November 1612. Bull later explained his flight because of the accusation of Catholic sympathies made against him. He moved to Brussels where he was employed as one of the organists in the Chapel of Archduke Albrecht VII, sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands. From September 1615, he held the post of organist of Antwerp Cathedral. In December 1617 he acted as city organist at ‘s Hertogenbosch. Bull’s reputation rests mainly on his keyboard music. The composition of God Save the Queen has been attributed to him.

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Antwerp was renowned for its printing. Originally, all music was notated by hand. Manuscripts were costly and owned exclusively by religious orders, courts, or wealthy households. That all changed in 1501 when Venetian printer Ottaviano Petrucci published Harmonice musices odhecation, the first significant anthology of (100) polyphonic secular songs. The availability of notation in print boosted the development of instrumental music for both soloists and ensembles, and engendered the creation of new genres. In Flanders, Tielman Susato was the first printer to gain esteem for producing music books. Nothing is known about the date or place of his birth – he may have been Dutch or German. Details about his activities begin in 1529 when he was working as a calligrapher for Antwerp Cathedral. He also played the trumpet and was listed as a ‘town player’ in the city. In 1541, he created the first music printing company in the Low Countries which he combined with selling musical instruments from his home. During a prolific publishing career he was responsible for twenty-five books of chansons, three books of masses, and nineteen books of motets. The indefatigable Christopher Plantin was also active in printing music and produced some of the finest choir-books of his day. From the 1570s onwards, the Bellerus and Phalesius families were leading printing houses within the domain. The whole contemporary repertoire was made available by Antwerp presses: vernacular song books and psalms as well as polyphonic secular and religious music. Composers from all over Europe had their work printed in this, the most musical of all cities at the time.

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Flourishing musical life in Antwerp and Brussels did not go unnoticed at the Palace of Westminster. Henry VIII himself had received a thorough musical education and was a dedicated patron of the arts. He was accomplished at the lute, organ, and virginals and, apparently, sang as well. Henry recruited the best musicians to join his court. A number of Flemish musicians figured amongst the many Europeans that were attracted to take part in music making in and around London. Dyricke Gérarde [Derrick Gerarde] arrived in England in 1544. Little is known of his life, but almost his entire musical output is contained in manuscript at the British Library. These manuscripts constitute one of the largest collections of polyphony by a single composer to have survived from the Elizabethan era. His achievement however was overshadowed by the reputation of a Flemish composer who had arrived in in the capital some two decades previously.

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Lutenist Philip van Wilder was first recorded as a resident in London in 1522. By 1529 he was a member of the Privy Chamber, the select group of musicians who played to the king in private. During the second quarter of the sixteenth century Van Wilder oversaw secular music-making at the court, a position that brought him close to Henry VIII. He taught playing the lute to Princess (later Queen) Mary and subsequently to Prince Edward (later Edward VI). At the time of Henry VIII’s death in 1547 Van Wilder was Keeper of the Instruments and effectively head of the instrumental musical establishment at Westminster, a post later known as Master of the King’s Music. The upkeep of the Royal instruments at Westminster was a heavy duty. The scope of that task becomes clear from the inventory of Henry’s possessions at his death, listing thirteen organs, nineteen other keyboard instruments (virginals and clavichords), and several hundred smaller wind and string instruments including viols, lutes, and recorders.

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Van Wilder continued to enjoy Royal favour during the reign of Edward VI. He was granted a coat of arms and crest and, in 1551, authorized to recruit boy singers for the Chapel Royal from anywhere in England. Three years after his death in February 1554 an anonymous tribute was paid to the musician and printed by Richard Tottel in his collection of Songes and Sonettes (1557), commonly known as ‘Tottel’s Miscellany’, containing the following line:

Laye downe your lutes and let your gitterns rest.
Phillips is dead whose like you can not finde,
Of musicke much exceeding all the rest.

In an age of wandering artists and scholars, the Renaissance was an internationalist movement united by a common (Latin) language. Its civic life teaches our age the salutary lesson that a nationalist message is one of disengagement. The appeal to nativist emotions conceals the yearning for a flawless world that never was or will be. The cultural strength of a country manifests itself in participation – that is, in the openness of borders, the assimilation of non-native concepts, and the embracing of external influences. It takes a cosmopolitan mind to be a patriot.

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From 1881 onwards the mass exodus of Jews from Eastern Europe to London turned Whitechapel and surrounding boroughs into massive immigrant communities. The arrival of newcomers transformed these areas. Living in poverty, settlers were accused of bringing dirt and disorder with them. Streets strewn with decomposing fish and rotting vegetation were classified by commentators as ‘Jewish’ as though there was a connection between filth and faith. Lack of accommodation led to rent rises and overcrowding which provoked racial agitation. In February 1886 The Pall Mall Gazette warned that ‘foreign Jews … are becoming a pest and a menace to the poor native born East Ender’. With a number of churches turned into synagogues, the clergy feared for the future of Christianity. In 1902, Cosmo Gordon Lang, Bishop of Stepney, accused immigrants of ‘swamping whole areas once populated by English people’. The term ‘swamping’ in the context of immigration would cause renewed controversy during the Thatcher era.

Local inhabitants expressed a sense of isolation which in turn intensified discord. Policing Whitechapel proved problematical because of language barriers. The want of Yiddish among police officers hampered the maintenance of law and order, and impeded investigations into the perceived presence of political agitators. Instead, officers acted as surrogate social workers. They monitored the movement of migrants and were required to brief politicians on socio-economic conditions in the immigrant ghettos. The East London Jewish population was a largely self-surveilling community. The newcomers, though quarrelsome and noisy at times, were hard-working and home-centred – not given to brawling or boozing. This contributed to high rates of social mobility within the community. Territoriality and inter-communal conflict were the main causes of public disorder. Collective resistance to prevent Jewish settlement was rife and the general trend was towards segregation. Rival gangs battled for control of the street. Sections of the borough tended to become either all Jewish or remain Anglo-Irish.

East London immigrants produced individual criminals, but no criminal classes. Urban villainy in the later nineteenth century was an urgent problem, but the reported crime-rate amongst immigrants remained comparatively low. Who was responsible for the ‘new’ wave of wrongdoing? Finger pointing journalism – Daily Mail style – started there and then. Immigrants came to be treated as potential burglars, armed robbers, sex offenders, or murderers. Their crimes were reported in hysterical detail and with a great deal of moral indignation. On 14 November 1864 twenty-four year old Cologne-born Franz Müller was executed before crowd of 50,000 cheerful spectators outside Newgate prison. He had murdered Thomas Briggs, a City banker who was travelling on the 9.50pm North London Railway from Fenchurch Street. The assailant – a tailor by profession – took his gold watch and spectacles and threw the victim’s body from the compartment. It was the very first killing on a British train. His hanging was one of the last public executions in London.

Israel Lobulsk was born in Warsaw in 1865. Having experienced the horrors of the 1881 Christmas pogrom in the city, he left Poland and arranged a passage from Frankfurt to London in exchange for work on a cattle boat, arriving penniless in 1885. Adopting the name Israel Lipski, he worked as an umbrella maker and was one of fifteen persons living in a house at no. 16 Batty Street, running off Commercial Road, East London. In June 1887 one of the other tenants, Polish immigrant Miriam Angel, a pregnant woman who lived one floor below Lipski, was found murdered with nitric acid (_HNO3_ or aqua fortis) poured down her throat. When the police arrived, they found Israel Lipski under the bed, unconscious, with the same corrosive liquid in his mouth. It was concluded that after committing the crime, he had tried to kill himself. Lipski denied any involvement. The case caused furore and touched upon the issue of unrestricted Jewish immigration. A two-day trial took place at the Old Bailey before James Fitzjames Stephen, a well-respected judge. Lipski was poorly defended and, after just eight minutes of deliberation, he was found guilty by members of the jury. Observers raised doubts about the trial’s fairness, but Lipski was hanged on 22 August 1887 at Newgate prison. The execution was carried out by James Berry (during his seven years in office he was responsible for 131 hangings). When the black flag was raised, a crowd of over 5,000 persons gathered outside the prison burst out in jubilation. Thereafter, ‘Lipski’ became a term of ethnic abuse against Jews.

Fear turned into panic in 1888 with a spade of barbaric murders in Whitechapel. The hunt for Jack the Ripper was the talk of the day. Who was this maniac? Surely not an Englishman. Public hysteria, whipped up by unscrupulous politicians and populist press barons, created a Lynch’s Law mentality.

Intense xenophobia made people decide to seek vengeance against a community of aliens in their midst. Hatred of foreigners became mixed up with vitriolic antisemitism. The British Brothers League (BBL) was formed in May 1901 along paramilitary lines with the support of numerous (Conservative) politicians. Using the slogan ‘England for the English’, the movement organised marches and rallies and called for closure of Britain’s borders. London, it was argued, had become the ‘dumping ground for the scum of Europe’. The Gothic metaphor was prevalent in anti-immigration writings, evoking the spectre of racial conflict and painting a hellish picture of cultural ruin. Britain’s identity was at stake. The Eastern Post and City Chronicle headlined BBL activities and demanded that the government end the ‘foreign flood which has submerged our native population of East London’. Within months the league claimed 6,000 members. Parallels with present-day movements are too close for comfort.

Language is a ragbag of terms and phrases that are handed down, created or borrowed over a long period of time. A loanword is a term adopted from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language without translation. Loanwords are immigrants. They arrive in alien surroundings, adapt to the new vocabulary, integrate and become domesticated (spelling, pronunciation, etc.), at times losing part of their original meaning. In English, loanwords (mostly nouns) appear in a variety of contexts, such as trade, art, fashion, food, technology, war, etc. Such words tend to be taken from a field of activity where the foreign culture has a dominant role, hence the many Italian words in the sphere of music and opera, or French terms in that of ballet.

When the Merchant Adventurers set up headquarters Bruges in 1344, it marked the beginning of a long period of commercial and artistic interaction between the Low Countries and England. Contacts were intense. In order to defend their interests, foreign merchants united in ‘Hansen’, including the powerful ‘Flemish Hanse of London’. From 1463 to 1469 William Caxton stayed in Bruges as governor of the Merchant Adventurers. He learned the art of printing in Flanders and, on his return, installed the first printing press near Westminster Abbey in 1476. Later, when Elizabeth I provided a safe haven to Protestants from the Low Countries who had escaped Spanish persecution, the country received their skilled industry and commercial experience in return. Refugees introduced new trades to local economies, such as Canterbury silks, Norwich stuffs, or Yarmouth herring. Flemish and Dutch professional craftsmen and artists were enticed to cross the Channel. English ambassadors in the Low Countries functioned as industrial and artistic ‘spies’. The brain drain existed long before the term was invented. It is clear from Johan Frederik Bense’s impressive Dictionary of the Low-Dutch Element in the English Vocabulary (1926) that many early words borrowed from Flemish/Dutch belong to the economic and commercial domains.

In 1519, Jan Ympyn returned from a twelve years stay in Venice where he had been sent by his merchant father to learn commercial practices and the art of bookkeeping. Ympyn settled in Antwerp where he prospered as an exporter of silks, woollens, and tapestries. Much of his business was directed towards England. Today he is remembered as the author of the first Flemish manual on bookkeeping, entitled Nieuwe instructie ende bewijs der looffelijcker consten des rekenboecks, published posthumously in Antwerp in 1543. Four years later this manual was translated into English as A Notable … Woorke, Expressyng and Declaryng the Forme how to Kepe a Boke of Accomptes or Reconynges. The last word is literally adopted from the Dutch/Flemish word ‘rekening’. Reckoning is one of those loanwords that in the course of time began a ‘life of its own’. This book is the oldest extant text on accounting in English. It has been suggested that merchant and financier Thomas Gresham, resident in Brussels in 1543, had been responsible for the translation, but the claim has not been substantiated.

Under the Treaty of Nonsuch in 1585, Elizabeth I decided to intervene directly in the war between the United Provinces and Spain. She sent Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, with some 5,000 troops to assist the Dutch. For years to come, English troops were stationed in Flushing (Vlissingen). During the eighty years of struggle many new weapons, strategies, systems of fortification, and other innovations in the art of warfare were introduced. To British soldiers and mercenaries, the Dutch experience was crucial in their personal career development. The first substantial Dutch-English dictionary (31,000 entries) was compiled by the soldier and scholar Henry Hexham in 1648 and is entitled A Copious English and Netherduytch Dictionarie. He was responsible for introducing many Dutch military terms into the English vocabulary, including booty (buit), beleaguer (belegeren), quarter-master (kwartiermeester), knapsack (knapzak), plunder (plunderen), and tattoo (taptoe).

In 1598, Richard Haydocke, former English ambassador to The Hague, translated Paola Lomazzo’s Trattato del’arte della pittura. Searching for an English equivalent for the Italian paese, he recalled the word landschap from conversations with artists in the Low Countries, the second syllable in the word being derived from scheppen (to create). His Tracte Containing the Artes of Curious Paintinge introduced a new set of terms in the vocabulary of the English art critic, first landscape, soon to be followed by seascape, cloudscape, riverscape, and townscape, all terms conjuring up the image of the Flemish or Dutch artist contemplating his surroundings and creating scenery, clouds, rivers and urban views in paint.

Certain loanwords have not survived or are rarely used. They appear in the dictionary, but seem lost in a mass of entries, isolated, ignored. Because they are exceptional, such terms tend to hint at a notable event or happening. One particular word tells a story of political intrigue. In its early days Tyburn was a country village in Middlesex, close to the current location of Marble Arch. Until 1783 it served as London’s primary public place of execution. The first recorded hanging took place in 1196 and concerned the charismatic figure of William Fitz Osbert, known as ‘William Longbeard’, the populist leader of London’s poor who was apprehended after a mob uprising against the rich. It was one of the first explosions of urban violence in England. Early executions tended to be of a political nature. Order had to be protected at any cost, hence the public displays of punishment. Tensions within society grew with an increasing influx of refugees into London and elsewhere. It created anxiety among the authorities that certain aliens might have immigrated ‘under the colour of religion’ and could be agents or spies. Such suspicions were not unjustified. Impostors had tried to claim the English throne on a couple of occasions. In both instances a foreign connection was evident. There was the failed attempt by Lambert Simnel, a young pretender to the throne of England and most likely of Flemish descent, whose supporters were beaten in the Battle of Stoke Field in June 1487. Simnel was imprisoned for life, but Henry VII pardoned the young man and gave him a job in the Royal kitchens.

Tournai-born Perkin Warbeck was possibly an illegitimate son of Henry IV. He called himself Richard Shrewsbury, Duke of York. Various European monarchs accepted Warbeck’s claim to the English throne in order to pursue their own diplomatic objectives. In 1497 he landed in Cornwall with a small army of men hoping to capitalize on local resentment in the aftermath of a recent rebellion against the war taxes imposed by Henry VII for his Scottish campaign. As the rebels had been heavily defeated, Perkin found little support for a renewed uprising. He was captured and hanged as a traitor at Tyburn. The story of events was dramatized in 1634 by John Ford in a play entitled The Chronicle Historie of Perkin Warbeck: a Tragedy. In 1830, Mary Shelley wrote a story about him. A linguistic link to the impostor remains. ‘Landloper’ is a Dutch/Flemish word for vagabond or vagrant. The word was first recorded in Britain in the early sixteenth century and used by Francis Bacon in Henry VII (1622) when referring to Warbeck: ‘He had been from his Child-hood such a Wanderer, or (as the King called him) such a Land-loper’. It may well be that Perkin had brought the word with him when he crossed from Flanders to England.

The integration of loanwords can be controversial. In the circle of linguistic sticklers such terms are frowned upon. They suffer hostility and discrimination. Purism is the practice of defining one variety of language as being of intrinsically higher quality than others. By definition, the purist is a prophet of doom. An invasion of foreign words is a sign of decline, fatal to a nation’s cultural wellbeing. He/she strives for a form of prescriptive linguistics, aiming to establish a standard language that is resistant to change, and immune to foreign importation. Purists are the border agents of language, overseeing the strict control of the movement of words. Their record is just as poor as that of the UK Border Agency itself. They have failed in the past and will continue to do so. Nations and languages do not live in a vacuum, but they flourish in a continuous interactive relationship with other countries and peoples. Freedom of movement and exchange are the essential characteristics of a dynamic culture. Mapping the spread of loanwords offers an insight into the balance of power between nations and the migration of peoples at any given period in time.


Traditionally, four persons are known in English common law: natural born subject; denizen; alien friend; and alien enemy. In his Commentaries on the Law of England (1766) William Blackstone, Professor of English Law at Oxford University, summarised the position of the latter in times of conflict: ‘alien enemies have no rights, no privileges’. The Crown in other words possessed absolute power over alien enemies. When Mussolini declared war in June 1940, Churchill ordered to ‘collar the lot’. Mass internment followed. The precedent had been set during World War I.


On 4 August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. The next day Parliament passed the Aliens Restriction Act, transforming every foreigner born in Germany or Austria-Hungary into an enemy alien. This person was not permitted to send letters; he could not travel more than five miles from the police station at which he had registered; he could not carry a camera, or own a car, a motorcycle, or a carrier pigeon; he was forbidden to obtain military maps or possess a gun. To many, mere registration of enemy aliens did not settle the issue. In the years preceding the war, newspapers had sounded the alarm about nefarious Germans. Since 1870, the British image of Germany had changed drastically. The old stereotype of a nation populated by philosophers, composers, and drunken students, had transformed into one of military brutes, megalomaniac scientists, and spymasters. Germans were considered a dose of bad germs. As early as 1909, papers had reported (imaginary) Zeppelin sightings and warned of the threat posed by an expanding German navy. Lord Northcliffe, owner of both the Daily Mail and the Times, further stoked the fear of invasion, warning that German waiters and barbers lurked at the heart of a hidden spy network.


Pressured by Parliament to arrest all enemy aliens as prisoners of war, British Home Secretary Reginald McKenna initially refused. Internment, he noted, was reserved for those who were military personnel or seen as dangerous to the nation. On 7 May 1915, however, a German submarine torpedoed the British ocean liner Lusitania, killing more than a thousand civilians. Riots erupted in the streets of London and across the British Empire, from Johannesburg to Melbourne. Looters ransacked German bakeries, butchers and pubs. In Liverpool, police had to take citizens of German descent into protective custody. Political resistance to mass internment vanished overnight. Less than a week after the Lusitania’s destruction, the government announced that male enemy aliens – whatever their status or profession – would be rounded up. Many of them had settled years before, some families had been in Britain for generations. Tens of thousands of men were registered and locked up for the duration of the war. In north London, Alexandra Palace became a holding camp for up to 3,000 aliens. Eventually, they were sent to the village of Knockaloe on the Isle of Man which was turned into a complex of wooden sheds housing 25,000 internees. They were not soldiers, but low-grade hostages who were forced to endure their miserable fate and the breaking up of family life. The majority of those interned left Britain after the war or were deported. Many never saw their relations again.


Ironically, some immigrants were amongst the most ardent champions of internment. Emma Orczy was born in Hungary into a noble family. She was fifteen years old when her father took the family to London. She became a blockbuster author. Her novel The Scarlet Pimpernel was phenomenally popular. Between 1906 and 1940, she wrote fourteen sequels to the story. During World War I, Emma showed loyalty to her adopted country by founding the Active Service League, an organisation that urged women to make the following promise: ‘I do hereby pledge … to persuade every man I know to offer his services to the country, and I also pledge myself never to be seen in public with any man who … has refused to respond to his country’s call’. It was up to women to send their men to the trenches. Novelist William Tufnell Le Queux was born in Southwark in 1864, the son of an immigrant from Chateauroux in central France. Educated on the Continent, he became a prolific writer. From about 1905 he was a self-proclaimed patriot and Germanophobe. In 1906 Le Queux wrote for Lord Northcliffe’s Daily Mail a serial titled ‘The invasion of 1910’ (later published in book form). It warned of German atrocities and urged the introduction of compulsory military training. At the same time, politicians and newspaper editors became fixated on the idea that German prisoners in Britain had a pleasant time while British prisoners of war in Germany suffered brutal treatment. Internment deteriorated into organised xenophobia. The impact of such hysteria, which resulted in mass deportation of German civilians at the end of the conflict, would survive well beyond 1918.


Who were the victims? George Sauter was born in 1866 at Rettenbach, Bavaria, and studied art at the Royal Academy in Munich. He moved to London in 1895, having worked previously in Holland, Belgium, France and Italy. He married Lilian Galsworthy, daughter of the writer of the Forsyte Saga, and was appointed Honorary Secretary to the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers during Whistler’s presidency. Having lived in London for two decades but not become a British citizen, Sauter was interned with his son Rudolf (who became an artist in his own right) at the Alexandra Palace in December of 1915 and repatriated to Germany in early 1917. He never returned to Britain. George Kenner was born Georg Kennerknecht on 1 November 1888 in the small town of Schwabsoien, Bavaria. He moved to London in 1910 where he furthered his education at the Lambeth School of Art. With a British partner he set up the art company Waddington & Kennerknecht at no. 73 Farringdon Street. He was interned in May 1915. He was permitted by the camp authorities to use his skills as a professional artist. He created 110 paintings and drawings of his experiences as a civilian prisoner of war. It is the most extensive and moving collection of this nature that has survived. Kenner was transported to Knockaloe in June 1916 and sent back to Germany in a prisoner exchange in March 1919, four months after the Armistice. He never returned to Britain and eventually moved to Cheltenham, Pennsylvania.

Not all internees left Britain altogether. Carl Bartels was born in Stuttgart in 1866 into a Protestant family. He father was a woodcarver from the Black Forest. Having married Mathilde Zappe in 1887, the couple visited Britain on their honeymoon and decided to stay. He settled in Haringey, north London, and soon gained acclaim as a sculptor and woodworker. His reputation was enhanced when he won a competition to design two copper birds for the twin clock towers of Liverpool’s Royal Liver Building. His designs were brought to life by the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts. After the Lusitania tragedy, Bartels was imprisoned at Knockaloe, even though he had been a naturalised Briton for more than twenty years. After the war Bartels was repatriated to Germany and separated from his wife and children. He regained residency in 1931 when his nephew’s employer offered permanent employment. Ironically, his designs were used in the modernisation of the RMS Mauretania, a sister ship of the Lusitania, although the building of the ship was scrapped in 1934. During the Second World War he made artificial limbs for injured servicemen.

The First World War was a watershed moment in the treatment of civilians during times of conflict. In the summer of 1914, concentration camps were a defunct concept. By the end of the war, they stretched across six continents. In only four years, mass detention of innocent civilians had been legitimised all over the world. Every nation has a black era or shameful episode it would prefer to exclude from historical accounts. For Britain, mass internment (and deportation) is one of those occurrences which has barely been acknowledged.

 

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The history of printing is a radical one. The invention of Johann Gutenberg’s movable type is generally referred to as a printing revolution. It quickened the spread of literacy in Renaissance Europe and contributed to the Reformation. Printing stands at the forefront of various revolutionary developments, both in a political and a socio-cultural sense.

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Seen from a different perspective, the printing trade has been at the forefront of the organised labour movement, creating trade unions, and being involved in the establishment of industrial relations practices. The art and skills of printing were relatively stable for a long time, but they have undergone many transformations since. At the end of the eighteenth century printing was still performed on wooden presses which were not only slow and cumbersome, but also produced an inconsistent impression. Attempts were made to mechanise the process. The use of a rolling cylinder to overcome manual strain and increase speed in printing was suggested as early as 1616 by Faustus Verantius in his remarkable study Machinae novae. It would take another two centuries before a practical printing cylinder machine eventually emerged.

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Printing House Square in the City acquired its name after the Great Fire of London when the King’s Printer settled there in order to publish official documents and the London Gazette, the official government journal of record. In 1785, John Walter began publishing the Daily Universal Register at the square which was renamed The Times in January 1788. In 1974 the paper moved to Gray’s Inn Road and then to Wapping in 1986. The fifty-four week Wapping dispute during the Thatcher era, along with the miners’ strike of 1984/5, has been one of the worst conflicts in British industrial relations. Target was the newspaper empire of News International (with its flagship publication The Times, and parent to The Sun, The News of the World, and others). Its owner, the Australian tycoon Rupert Murdoch, wanted to introduce technological innovations that would put 90% of typesetters out of work. It was a bitter and violent confrontation. This was not the first time that The Times had been at war with its employees. The introduction of advanced technologies and the restructuring of production processes have hit the workforce hard at times. The workers struck back. Faith in machinery was perceived as the danger; technology was the enemy. Work had lost its dignity; man was reduced to the level of a machine.

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In September 1712 a sea-sick German immigrant arrived on a yacht called the Peregrine in Greenwich from Rotterdam. He was fluent in French, but did not and never would speak a word of English. His name was George Louis, the Elector of Hanover – and the new Protestant king of Britain known as George I. The Glorious Revolution had brought William III to the throne. He created the Bank of England and attracted financiers from the Dutch Republic to settle in Britain. The officers in his army were predominantly French Huguenots. He also introduced a strong element of Continental aesthetics around Hampton Court and into the upper strata of society. Queen Anne did not produce an heir – enter King George. The Hanoverians created their own inner circle of German high-society around them, but the tone of their rule was pragmatic, business-like, and industrial. It acquired a Teutonic accent. The emerging industrial apparatus of the Hanoverian state was developed with the aim of strengthening Britain’s role in Europe. The dominant importance of an overseas British Empire emerged later. Amongst the more notable immigrants were industrialists, manufacturers, engineers, chemists, inventors, and skilled workers. Britain donned the hard hat and overalls. This general atmosphere continued under Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (they spoke German at home) and was exemplified in a spectacular manner by the Great Exhibition of 1851, the first international public display of manufactured products.

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One of the new arrivals in Britain was Friedrich Gottlob Koenig. The son of a farmer, he was born on 17 April 1774 at Eisleben, in Saxony. After school, he was bound apprentice for five years to printers Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, which today is the oldest surviving music publishing house (founded in 1719). Having spent a year studying physics and mechanics at Leipzig University, he started experiments to improve the art of printing. Not finding any interest in his work at home or elsewhere in Europe, he settled in London in November 1806. Britain was the place to be. Business was booming there. It was an open society, keen to accept bright minds from abroad, eager to accept and develop new technologies, and there were no restrictions to the movement of migrants. The presence of the Hanoverian court was an additional stimulus for young Germans to make the journey across the Channel.

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In London Koenig was introduced to Thomas Bensley, a prominent printer in Bolt Court, off Fleet Street, who was interested in improving the firm’s machinery. He brought in two other printers to help finance Koenig’s experiments: Richard Taylor (whose firm is still active under the name Taylor & Francis) and typographer George Woodfall. On 30 November 1807 they signed a business agreement. Koenig was joined by fellow countryman and engineer (watchmaker) Andreas Friedrich Bauer. Together they constructed and patented the first printing machine powered by steam. After some experiments, plans were drawn up and a patent was taken out in October 1811. The press was tested in trial runs at the Koenig & Bauer workshop. The first sheets printed entirely from cylindrical pressure were sheets (G & X) from Thomas Clarkson’s book on the Life of Penn (1814). The trials proved successful. Several newspaper proprietors were invited to see Koenig’s new cylinder machine, but only John Walter of The Times realised its potential. To avoid difficulties with his workers, Walter insisted Koenig & Bauer conveyed, in secrecy, the machine parts to a workshop adjoining The Times offices on Printing House Square. Here it was constructed away from the paper’s composing and press rooms in order to avoid any anti-mechanical demonstrations or angry machine bashing.

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The printing of the first issue of the paper was a clandestine affair, but nervous rumours were rife on Printing House Square, and the atmosphere at the workplace was tense. At six o’clock in the morning, Walter entered the press room and astonished his employees by announcing the issue of 29 November 1814 had already been printed by steam. He warned against industrial action and promised that wages would be paid until alternative employment could be procured. In the event, the edition passed into circulation with little agitation from the workforce. The strategy of surprise had been a success. Koenig’s cylinder press, the output of which was soon increased to 1,100 sheets per hour, initiated the industrial revolution in printing and the age of the popular press.

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Critiques of mass culture, and of the press in particular, began emerging during the late eighteenth century. Writers such as Goethe attacked the banal diversions offered by the newspapers, noting that they were merely a means of escape from social reality. Journalism promoted passivity and conformity. Others offered more positive appraisals of the value of mass media. Karl Marx saw the press as a means of promoting democracy and civil liberties. The press became a contested terrain, with both fervent defenders and severe critics. Some saw it as an instrument of enlightenment, while others rejected it as a vehicle of banality and mass deception. Søren Kierkegaard was a relentless critic of the press. In 1854 he stated that if ‘I were a father and had a daughter who was seduced, I should by no means give her up; but if I had a son who became a journalist I should regard him as lost’. The role of an irresponsible and/or bias press remains a hotly disputed topic to this very day, recently fueled by the deplorable level of reporting leading up to the Brexit disaster.

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Friedrich Koenig in the meantime returned to Germany in 1817 where he established a printing press in Wurzburg. The firm was called Koenig & Bauer, after both inventors, making it the oldest printing press manufacturer in the world, as it is still in existence today.

06

 

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During the Second World War, radio was a vital tool of political power. By 1936, four million French citizens possessed a wireless in their homes with the choice of various main and local stations. After the invasion, the Nazis took hold of the dominant Radio-Paris, and Vichy gained control of stations in the south. To win the war of the radio waves (‘la guerre des ondes’) was judged as important as dominating the battlefields. From 1940 to 1944 Radio-Londres broadcast up to five hours a day from the BBC to occupied France. The station was operated by Charles de Gaulle’s Free French who had established their headquarters at no. 4 Carlton Gardens, Westminster. It opened its daily transmissions with the legendary words: ‘Ici Londres! Les Français parlent aux Français’. De Gaulle himself had made his famous appeal to the nation on 18 June 1940 to rise against the occupation. Radio-Londres was the voice of the French Resistance.

A group of young Free Frenchmen, including actor Jacques Duchesne (real name: Michel Saint-Denis, founder of the London Theatre Studio in 1935), painter Jean Oberlé, journalist and politician Maurice Schumann, entertainer Pierre Dac, Romanian-born composer Francis Chagrin and others (all close to De Gaulle) broke with broadcasting traditions and produced programs peppered with personal messages, satirical sketches, songs, and jokes. Jean Oberlé’s jingle ‘Radio-Paris ment, Radio-Paris ment, Radio-Paris est allemand’ (sung to the tune of ‘La Cucaracha’), first broadcast on 6 September 1940, was particularly memorable. Of deep significance was the contribution made by singer and songwriter Anna Marly. Born Anna Yurievna Betulinskaya on 30 October 1917 in St Petersburg she was a Russian refugee in France who made a successful career as a performer. After capitulation, she fled to London with her Dutch husband, Baron van Doorn, whom she had met whilst performing at The Hague. In London she joined up with the Free French. There she came across Emmanuel d’Astier de La Vigerie, a leading figure in the resistance, who had heard her sing the ‘Chant des partisans’ in Russian. He requested a translation of the song with the intention of using it as a replacement for ‘La Marseillaise’ which had been banned by the Nazis. It quickly established itself as the surrogate anthem of the French resistance both in France and Britain.

Radio-Londres broadcasts would begin with some ‘personal messages’ which were often amusing, confusing, or without apparent context. They were coded communications to underground agents. The station strongly supported the V for Victory campaign as an act of subversion. The idea was launched by the liberal politician and broadcaster Victor Auguste de Laveleye who was spokesman for the Belgian government in exile at Eaton Square, Belgravia. He also acted as newsreader for Radio-Belgique (Radio-België) which became the voice of Belgian Resistance. In a broadcast of 14 January 1941, he asked all Belgians – Flemish and Walloons – to choose the letter V as a symbol of unity in adversity: V for ‘Victoire & Vrijheid’. It was the start of the ‘Campagne des V’, which saw V graffity appearing in many urban settings in Belgium and the Netherlands. By July 1941, the emblematic use of the letter V had spread through occupied Europe. The campaign was endorsed by Winston Churchill in a speech of 19 July 1941.

Illustrator Maurice Van Moppès was born on 6 January 1905 in Paris, the son of an antiquarian. Between 1940 and 1943, under the initials MVP, he wrote a series of parodies on famous songs in which he ridiculed the German invaders and their French collaborators. Published as a booklet in 1944 entitled Chansons de la BBC, it was parachuted by the RAF into France in order to raise morale and encourage resistance. It included such songs as ‘La Chanson du Maquis’ (written together with Francis Chagrin). During the blitz on London, he wrote lyrics to the opening bars of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony calling it ‘La chanson V’ (the opening motif of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony became a powerful symbol for the Allied forces: the short-short-short-long rhythmic pattern correspond in Morse code to the letter V). It was broadcast on Radio Londres on 1 June 1944 when the Allied forces sent the first messages to occupied France of an imminent invasion. Shortly before the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944, Radio Londres read out the first stanza of Paul Verlaine’s poem ‘Chanson d’automne’ to let the resistance know that the invasion would begin within twenty-four hours: ‘Les sanglots longs / Des violons / De l’automne / Blessent mon coeur / D’une langueur / Monotone’. The final three lines of the poem were a specific call to action to the French Resistance.

It would be tempting (but unjustified) to suggest that the legendary entertainer and Free France broadcaster Pierre Brac came up with the idea of Verlaine’s poem as a coded message. Born André Isaac in Châlons-sur Marne on 15 August 1893 into an Alsatian Jewish family (his father was a butcher), young Brac mastered the violin. Unfortunately, his left arm was injured in action during World War I (his brother Marcel died in action) and he was obliged to forget his musical hopes and ambitions. Dac became a cabaretier known as ‘Le roi des loufoques’ (The king of crackpots). Having escaped France via Spain, he joined Radio-Londres, broadcasting bitingly satirical songs, and deriding Nazi ideology and the German war machine. Pierre Dac was an unlikely hero of the French Resistance.

By late 1944, Allied victory in France sounded the end of Radio-Londres. What stands out in this period is the European spirit that was emerging amongst those who had been exiled in Britain. To them, London was a catalyst. Most refugees returned home, grateful towards their host country, and with one resolution in mind: this shall never again. Europe must unite. Churchill agreed. In a speech delivered at the University of Zurich on 19 September 1946 he called on European countries, including Germany, to form a regional organisation for security and cooperation on the Continent. Today, that unifying spirit has evaporated. Memories are short and political egos overbearing. Darkness has fallen. The Brexit Betrayal has killed the flame and reduced Europe to the level of trade figures, car sales, currency fluctuations, and the V fingers that signify ‘fuck off you foreigner’. The dogs are loose. Prejudice barks, bigotry bites. Crackpots are back in charge. Bring out the violins. This shall never happen again.

 

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[The images in our blog are always anonymous. I make an exception for the first and the last image. The last is a photo of Jewish musicians who were forced to play while the victims of the Nazis were marched to the gas chambers. The first image shows a nice portrait of the infamous Farage. I honor the musicians, what I think of Farage, well … – Paul Dijstelberge]