Codifying Commonwealth Citizenship: The Commonwealth, South Asian Immigration, and Citizenship n the United Kingdom, 1945-1981

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Poussard, Heather
History , Commonwealth , Citizenship , Immigration
In 1948, the United Kingdom formally established two categories: Citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies and Commonwealth Citizenship, through the British Nationality Act. Premised upon the Commonwealth of Nations, this broad and extremely inclusive citizenship legislation would define British nationality and citizenship until 1981. The Commonwealth underwent significant changes in the late 1940s as the Dominions implemented their own distinct citizenships, beginning with Canada in 1946. Following their independence, India negotiated membership on more equal terms, emphasizing the inherent tension between member autonomy and unity. As South Asian immigrants asserted their rights to enter and settle in the UK as part of the legal community in the decades following 1948, British policy-makers responded with immigration controls, including the Commonwealth Immigrants Acts in 1962 and 1968, that in the end eroded the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth provides a lens from which to analyse the global dimensions of the late stage of British imperialism and the relationships between members during this period. Within the global context of decolonization, this thesis explores how the very existence of South Asian immigrants challenged the Commonwealth and ultimately resulted in its failure to remain a significant imperial and international organization. The Commonwealth was shaped and used by the UK, Dominions, and Colonies to further their own goals to limit or advance decolonization. The movement of British subjects from the Commonwealth to the UK played a significant role in the history of UK immigration and citizenship policy, eventually resulting in the erosion of the Commonwealth. Events and interpretations of increased South Asian immigration punctuate formal actions and policies enacted by the UK, which challenged both the Commonwealth and imperial unity and universality.
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