A classic novel and a border wall that is no more

by John Washington

The common English usage of the word pogrom (from Russian for devastation, or storm) began in the 1880s. Hundreds of anti-Jewish riots in the Russian empire, especially in modern day Ukraine and Poland, forced millions to flee, mostly to western Europe and the United States.

At the same time the Russian empire was fomenting the largest mass displacement of people in decades, on the other side of Europe, the British empire’s hegemony was also beginning to crack.

Those factors — increased migration and waning imperial power (a two-spirit cocktail still known for bringing out fuddling nativist truculence) — dramatically changed the way the British saw and understood migration. In 1858 The Times of London had proclaimed the country to be a “nation of refugees.” Within a few decades British papers were decrying the “alien inrush” and the “invasion of foreign pauperism,” calling on authorities to “keep the aliens out!

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