With Britannia’s Embrace: Modern Humanitarianism and the Imperial Origins of Refugee Relief, Caroline Shaw has written a timely and important book. From the seventeenth century onward, the heartfelt embrace of refugees was a “nation-defining act” that proved central to the development of political liberalism and British identity (43). Employing a wide range of sources, from literary works to parliamentary papers, Shaw charts Britons’ changing attitudes toward refugees across three centuries. In her early chapters, she uncovers an early modern culture in which refugees were welcomed to Britain as “model liberal individuals” (78). Typical refugees, usually men, were depicted as heroic, self-acting freedom fighters. In her later chapters, however, Shaw accounts for the gradual “hardening of the humanitarian heart” in the late nineteenth century as Britons redefined refugees as economic liabilities (helpless women and children) or as potential security threats (205).
Forth, Aidan A.. Britannia’s Embrace: Modern Humanitarianism and the Imperial Origins of Refugee Relief, by Caroline Shaw; pp. xi + 311. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2015, £47.99, $74.00.. Victorian Studies, 59, 3: 566-568, 2017. Retrieved from Loyola eCommons, History: Faculty Publications and Other Works,
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
© Indiana University Press 2017