Like besieged settlers: Liam J. Liburd, ‘White against empire: Immigration, decolonisation and Britain’s radical right, 1954-1967’, in Josh Doble, Liam J. Liburd, Emma Parker (eds), British culture after empire: Race, decolonisation and migration since 1945, Manchester University Press, 2023, pp. 127-146


Abstract: Inspired by other studies that analyse the politics of Enoch Powell in light of the legacy of the British Empire, this chapter examines the British radical right’s response to Commonwealth immigration and decolonisation. In both challenging and building on these studies, this chapter argues that the British radical right drew deeply on the vast ideological and experiential reservoir of British imperialism in formulating and articulating their political vision. Drawing mostly on the published output of several of the groups that merged together to become the National Front in 1967, the chapter demonstrates that the activists within these groups experienced decolonisation and Commonwealth immigration as interlinked civilisational crises.  In doing so, it considers their presence and activism around the Notting Hill racist riots in 1958 and at their response to Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965. Against what they termed the ‘coloured invasion’ in Britain and the perceived surrender of ‘white rule’ abroad, they looked longingly at the renegade settler states of South Africa and Rhodesia, eventually reimagining Britain as the metropolitan equivalent of a besieged white-settler colony and white Britons as a variety of endangered white settler. This saw them reject the imperial remnants of the Commonwealth and advocate an imperial solution of a different order: a white alliance of Britain, its Dominions, South Africa and Rhodesia.

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