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The Forgotten FrenchExiles in the British Isles, 1940-44$
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Nicholas Atkin

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780719064388

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719064388.001.0001

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The tradition of exile: la colonie Française

The tradition of exile: la colonie Française

(p.185) 5 The tradition of exile: la colonie Française
The Forgotten French

Nicholas Atkin

Manchester University Press

In 1931, the French comprised 9.2 per cent of all foreign nationals living in England and Wales. After the Polish and Russian communities, the French constituted the third largest European group of émigrés. For the first half of the twentieth century, the French continued to number around 30,000 inhabitants, yet the outbreak of war in 1939 reduced this figure to just over 10,000. The irony was that, at this moment of contraction, it became increasingly difficult for them to retain their anonymity. Not only did the new arrivals from France seek out their countrymen and women as a point of reference in a foreign land, but Gaullists and others were eager to recruit among their ranks while, in the background, the British government kept a close watch on their activities, ensuring that any pro-Vichy sympathies did not get out of hand. Wartime was thus an uncomfortable experience for those who had long settled in Britain for whatever reason: economic, political, religious or otherwise. No longer would they be able to play out their quarrels in private.

Keywords:   French, émigrés, England, French community

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