The Roma People in Britain: Background information when reading An Incomplete Revenge

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

An Incomplete Revenge

A Maisie Dobbs Novel

by Jacqueline Winspear

An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2008, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2008, 352 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kathy Pierson

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Roma People in Britain

Print Review

From the first page to the last, Winspear sympathetically portrays Maisie Dobb's acceptance of and respect for Roma people, and celebrates their spirit. Sometimes referred to pejoratively as "gypsies" in English speaking countries (a corruption of "Egyptian"), this ancient, family-centered culture is believed to have emerged from warrior classes in what is now Pakistan over a millennium ago. Migrating north and west into Europe by the 16th century, today's Roma are divided by their Indo-Iranian dialect into three general populations: the Dom of the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the Lom of Central Europe, and the Rom of Western Europe.

Roma, which simply means "people" in the Romani language, now constitute the European Community's largest ethnic minority, at an estimated 8 to 12 million people (the same population as Sweden or Belgium). Nevertheless, they remain the least integrated and most persecuted ethnic group in Europe. As in Winspear's novel of 1931, Roma still experience frequent hostility throughout Europe. The BBC News calls them "one of the world's most marginalized racial groups," and the Chairman of Britain's Commission for Racial Equality describes the discrimination against Gypsies as the "last 'respectable' form of racism in Britain."

History reveals centuries of exclusion, discrimination, and intolerance against the Roma across Europe – actions which were often large-scale and state-sponsored in origin (for example, an estimated 0.5 - 1.5 million were killed by the Nazis). The roots of prejudice and oppression are tied to stereotypes about hygiene, begging, vagabondage, and other illegal activity. But there are also practical challenges that, centuries ago, made it difficult for a settled agrarian society to accommodate traveling communities; challenges that are even greater in a highly industrialized and overcrowded country such as Britain today.

Today, the population of Britain is over 60 million, compared with about 35 million in Maisie Dobb's day and 10 million in 1800. Many local authorities provide land for traveling communities, but stiff changes in land use laws and vast reductions in traditional common areas, compared with centuries past, leads to illegal squatting, which in turn increases evictions and fuels continued resentment towards traveling communities of any type - many of whom are not part of a recognized ethnic group such as the Roma but simply loosely knit groups of people who prefer not to settle.

Having said that, although the perception/prejudice of the Roma has been of traveling communities, Roma historians today argue that in fact the Roma were never typical nomads and that it was banishment, flight or trade that kept them moving on (much in the same way as the Jewish communities in Europe moved over the centuries). Today, it is estimated that perhaps 5% of Roma still travel. However, the Roma's traditional social organization, which includes a distrust for education by non-Roma, fosters their separation from the societies they live in, which tends to lead to low literacy rates, low employment rates and low levels of integration and acceptance.

In their struggles to achieve and maintain dignity and freedom, today's Roma are increasingly vocal and active about the need to offset these problems. They seek political protection to live their lives and protect their unique culture, and refuse to accept complacency in the face of anti-Roma propaganda and violence around the world.

Interesting Links
Romahistory.com
Romani.org
Beliefs and practices of the Roma

Article by Kathy Pierson

This article was originally published in March 2008, and has been updated for the November 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Islamic Enlightenment
    The Islamic Enlightenment
    by Christopher de Bellaigue
    In this comprehensive and well-researched history, de Bellaigue examines the evolution of Islamic ...
  • Book Jacket: The Leavers
    The Leavers
    by Lisa Ko
    The day before Deming Guo saw his mother for the last time, she surprised him at school. A navy blue...
  • Book Jacket: Wonderful Feels Like This
    Wonderful Feels Like This
    by Sara Lovestam
    High school is hard; or perhaps, more accurately, growing up and finding oneself is hard. This is ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Scribe of Siena
    by Melodie Winawer

    Equal parts transporting love story, meticulously researched historical fiction, and compelling time-travel narrative.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Chalk Pit

The Chalk Pit:
A Ruth Galloway Mystery

A string of murders takes Ruth underground in the newest book in the series.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T W Don't M A R

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -