Hampshire’s Gypsy rehabilitation centres: welfare and assimilation in mid-20th century Britain

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Abstract

This article uses the creation and running of a ‘Gypsy rehabilitation’ scheme in Hampshire in the 1960s to explore the position of England’s Gypsy and Traveller population at the highwater mark of Britain’s interventionist and paternalistic welfare state. Set against the background of increasing hostility to, and greater limits on, Gypsy and Travellers’ nomadic lifestyles, Hampshire’s rehabilitation centres, through enforced settlement, training and surveillance, sought to re-form their residents into full council tenants and so incorporate them into the mainstream economy and formal education. Reflecting wider assimilatory policies and expectations of other minority groups in this period, inherent in this scheme was a determination to remove the ‘taint’ of origins and enable them to pass as members of the settled community. This article shows first, rather than being exceptional to Gypsies, the tools used by the council to try and ‘rehabilitate’ its mobile Gypsy population were familiar from both the management of ‘problem families’ and in the use of camps to regulate and change the behaviour of other deviant populations. Second, reading against the grain of the archive, the article seeks to reveal the reactions of the Gypsies themselves to being ‘rehabilitated’. Finally it seeks to explain the demise of the scheme in terms of national shift in policy towards Britain’s Gypsies and Travellers. This shift needs to be set within the larger move away from assimilation and towards multiculturalism that was beginning to emerge by the early 1970s. In doing so, it suggests a future model for integrating research of minority groups within the wider histography of twentieth-century Britain.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistory Workshop Journal
Volume94
Issue numberSpring
Early online date30 Aug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Aug 2022

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