This Land of Promise

Matthew Lockwood


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HarperCollins Publishers
20 June 2024
ISBN: 9780008442569
608 pages

From the publisher

‘Important, comprehensive, and superbly researched. All the more urgent at the present time’ BART VAN ES

'A terrific, clear-eyed and balanced history that cuts through today’s toxic debates' DAILY TELEGRAPH

How have those who arrived on Britain’s shores shaped its history?

Refugees seeking to reach Britain today often face perilous journeys, impossible bureaucracy and acidic public opinion. But this hasn’t always been the way. For most of our history, Great Britain cherished its outward image as a safe haven for those displaced by religious persecution, political violence or economic crisis – an island of stability in the midst of a violent world.

In This Land of Promise, migration scholar Matthew Lockwood overturns many popular modern-day misconceptions about Britain’s history of immigration. Exiles and refugees have been not only a constant presence in Britain across the centuries but also intrinsic to shaping Britain as it is today. This is a profoundly moving and illuminating history, told through the people who lived it: Frederick Douglass and the formerly enslaved men who followed in his footsteps, fleeing America on the hopes of kinder cultures. Little girls like Liesl Ornstein, who discovered they were Jewish only when Hitler took Austria, who were sent to England and told to call themselves ‘Elizabeth’. Sun Yat-sen, who found sanctuary in London – a brief abduction aside – before becoming the father of modern China. Freddie Mercury, who at every turn tried to shake Zanzibar from his bones.

Almost every time, we see when we look back, Britain has not been an island refuge from the world, but an island refuge for the world. Not a country burdened by refugees, but instead transformed and strengthened by them.