Explaining British Refugee Policy, March 1938 - July 1940
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The twentieth century has aptly been referred to the century of the refugee.1 In the twentieth century, refugees became an important international problem which seriously affected relations between states and refugee issues continue to play an important part in international relations in the twenty-first century. The refugee crisis created by the Nazis in the 1930s was without precedent and the British government was unsure how to respond. British refugee policy was still in a formative stage and was therefore susceptible to outside influences. This dissertation aims to explain the key factors that drove British refugee policy in the period March 1938 to July 1940, and to evaluate their relative significance over time. I divided the period of study into three phases (March-September 1938, October 1938 to August 1939, September 1939 to July 1940), in order to explore how a range of factors varied in importance in a political and international environment that was rapidly changing. In considering how to respond to the refugee crisis, the British government was hugely influenced by concerns over its relations with other countries, especially Germany. There is little doubt that, during the entire period of this study, the primary influence on the formation and implementation of British refugee policy was the international situation. However, foreign policy did not by itself dictate the precise form taken by British refugee policy. The response of the British government was modulated by economic concerns, domestic political factors, humanitarianism, and by the habits, traditions and assumptions of British political culture. Some factors, like anti-Semitism became less important during the period of this study, while others like humanitarianism increased in importance.