The anticosmopolitanism that Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May endorsed as a guiding ideology of Brexit has a long history in British discourse. This article links the anticosmopolitanism alive in Brexit to late-nineteenth-century antisemitism, racism, and antiglobalization by examining the content, context, and reception of W. T. Eady's I.D.B. or The Adventures of Solomon Davis (1887). As an effort to lampoon diamond magnate Barney Barnato's rise in society, the novel throws up warnings about how deserving English will be impoverished when Jewish immigrants and other so-called “cosmopolitans” take advantage of the mobilities enabled by British entanglements with the larger world. The novel shows how fears of globalization and European immigration comingled with a racialized sense of Englishness, all intimations of Brexit discourse.
Danielle Kinseyis an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where she teaches courses on consumption and material culture, British history, global and imperial history, and the history of the body. She is completing a book manuscript for McGill-Queen's University Press about the diamond trade and the meaning of diamonds in Britain and its empire in the nineteenth century.