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Since the release of government documents during the 1980s, historians have known about the considerable efforts taken by UK ministers and civil servants to stop the migration of British citizens of colour from the Caribbean. Far from being welcomed with open arms, the UK government were shocked at the arrival of the famous HMT Windrush in 1948 and by 1950 civil servants made sure that no further British troop carriers would be able to transport fare-paying Caribbeans to the UK. The infamous Windrush Scandal of 2018 brought this history to wider public attention. The other side of that story is less well known. At the same time as the UK government sought to block and stop migration from the Caribbean, the UK spent considerable money and resources to transport emigrants out to the Empire, especially to Australia. This paper reunites these two strands of immigration and emigration history to argue that the state’s decision to restrict and subsidise mobility can tell us a great deal about the construction of British citizenship policy after the Second World War. Drawing upon the logistics of shipping routes, types of accommodation, and tonnage of vessels, this paper presents new evidence to support what Kathleen Paul called the unequal ‘spheres of Britishness’ upheld by British migration policy. Migrant shipping formed the material instantiation of these unequal ‘spheres’ of Britishness – ships were capsules that transported what the government called ‘stock’ and ‘blood’ through the metaphorical arteries of the British Empire. Shipping was the means by which the UK state instantiated what Michael Mann terms ‘infrastructural power’ in the maintenance of a global colour line.

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but booking is required.