Responses to gypsies in Britain 1900-1939
The thesis examines the perceptions and treatment of Gypsies in Britain during the early twentieth century. This enquiry touches upon a number of historically important themes and also has a contemporary relevance. Firstly it outlines the tradition of writing about the Gypsies which had developed over the previous two centuries and considers the treatment of the group in the work of early commentators. Secondly, it explores the nature of stereotypes of the Gypsies in early twentieth century society and considers the ways in which romantic and antipathetic images of the Gypsies could be crafted into a coherent rather than a contradictory body of thought by drawing on ideas of hierarchy and degeneration. Thirdly, it analyses responses to Gypsies from across sedentary society. The focus here is on the treatment of the group by legislators, local authorities, missionaries and scholars. Finally, it argues that responses to the group must be considered as of part of the age-old tradition of hostility towards nomadism in Europe. The examination of the treatment of the Gypsies in Britain reveals significant differences with their treatment elsewhere in Europe during the same period. Although there is evidence of antipathy towards the Gypsies at every level of British society there is a relative absence of institutionalised intolerance. However, it is evident that the ideas which were used to justify such treatment of the Gypsies elsewhere in Europe were also present in Britain, and that the treatment of immigrant Gypsies by the British state, in particular, reveals that it was not immune from antipathy.