My research has centred on the history of minorities and their place in British society from 1600 to the present. In particular I have worked on three overlapping groups: Jews, immigrants and internal migrants. This work is, in the first place about the past, but it also addresses controversial issues - antisemitism, racism and immigration – in the present.
My work on Jews in Britain examines the interaction between the Jewish minority and a liberal state. I have also worked on the social and communal history of English Jews and Jewish immigrants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; most recently I have explored the ways in which their difference was understood by both Jews and non-Jews. The history of antisemitism is an important focus in both of these contexts. I am especially interested in the relationship of antisemitism to other racisms and exclusions.
A different strand of research deals with the interaction of migrants and immigrants with successive welfare systems from 1600 to the present. It investigates how different systems from the parochial poor law to the welfare state deal with newcomers; how inclusive or exclusive they are and how they either promote or inhibit intolerance and integration. I have also written on the history of immigration control. More recently I have turned to focus on the history of multiculturalism in Britain and the ways in which it is connected to older habits of imperial rule and religious toleration as well as to the multinational character of the United Kingdom.
Currently, I am interested in the representation of Jews in Victorian culture and the place of Zionism in British political culture in the twentieth century. I am also working on a history of the concept of antisemitism.
I am involved in a number of international collaborative research projects which allow me to develop a comparative perspective on all these problems. Inevitably, this work generates policy implications for the present.
I teach options on Race and the Victorians and on Jews and Antisemitism in Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I supervise MA and PhD students across a range of topics exploring antisemitism, racism, intolerance and identity, as well as on the histories of liberation, welfare and class relations in modern Britain.
I am on the editorial boards of the History Workshop Journal and Immigrants and Minorities.
David Feldman is Director of the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism