Archive for 'Britain'

Zanzibar

Zanzibar (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Throughout the nineteenth century, the Sultan of Zanzibar ruled most of the East African mainland. He held tight control over the region, and ran lucrative ivory and slave trades. The indigenous tribes resented the control, but weren’t nearly powerful enough to oppose it.

As David Livingstone launched his expedition from Zanzibar, other explorers joined him and they began to send back reports of the horrors of the African slave trade. Political lobbyists in England began to press the Sultan to quit the slave trade, and in 1873, he reluctantly capitulated to their demands.

Thanks to these efforts, the British government held an informal control over the Sultan for a time. In the 1880s, British control came under threat by the Germans who began quietly garnering allegiance and support from the local tribe leaders. They moved quickly, getting each tribe to agree to the Kaiser being their overlord. The tribe leaders were quick to agree, misguidedly assuming that a distant overlord would be less trouble than the nearby Sultan.

The Germans formed a German East Africa Company that incorporated all the lands of the tribal treaties that they had signed. The new colony was dubbed Tanganyika and stretched from Tanganyika to Witu.

The British were taken fully by surprise, and moved rapidly to counter the German occupation. They set up the British East Africa Company and once again put pressure on the Sultan to hand over command of his remaining lands in East Africa. Once the land was rightfully divided between the Germans and the British, a temporary peace was established as each agreed to respect the others’ domain. A few years later, a more binding agreement was officially signed, giving Britain rule over Zanzibar and all the land from the Island of Pemba to Lake Victoria and the Nile watershed.

Before long, the East Africa Company found that their income was not nearly enough to offset the expenses of administration, so they sold their lands and buildings to the British Government. The government had the resources to properly develop the region, and a railway was soon built which opened up the highlands for white settlement.

Britain's possessions in British East Africa d...

Britain’s possessions in British East Africa during the colonial period. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The highlands provided a pleasant climate and land suitable for growing a variety of cash crops. In 1906, white settlers had moved in and developed crops of tea, coffee and tobacco. In 1907, the white settlers were given a select number of seats in the local government, though the local governor maintained majority control over who was appointed.

At the end of the First World War (which strongly impacted Kenya’s white population), the British settlers there pressed for the adoption of Kenya as a Crown Colony. This request was granted, giving the settlers far great rights in the region. Though the British government stated that as an African territory, the natives should be paramount, the lion’s share of government representation was given to the white settlers.

This inequality coupled with the worldwide depression of the 1930s led to serious tensions in the region. Nationalist groups grew up, and Kenya was wracked by deadly rebellions. The Mau Mau rebellion resulted in the murders of multitudes of British settlers and those who worked for them.

The rebellion was quelled, and throughout the 1950s, the Africans were given more lands and greater representation in government. In 1960, the policy of “one person one vote” was established, effectively ending the imbalance of power held by the white settlers.

By the end of British colonial rule in 1963, there remained some 60,000 white settlers living in Kenya. That number has dropped over the years, and today there are an estimated 32,000 British expatriates  living there. There are a number of well-known Britons who were actually born in Kenya, including Evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins, cyclist Chris Froome, and Sir Michael Bear, 683rd Lord Mayor of London.

 

Evacuees to New Zealand

Evacuees to New Zealand (Photo credit: The National Archives UK)

In the summer of 1938, war loomed on the world’s horizon. Though fighting had not yet touched Britain, the government began preemptive plans to evacuate the cities.  The Anderson Committee divided the country into “evacuation,” “neutral” and “reception” zones, and established priority evacuees: school children and teachers, mothers and young children, pregnant women, and incapacitated adults.

At the time, London was as yet out of reach of the German Luftwaffe; however, evacuation plans progressed, rehearsals were held, and additional rural camps were set up for evacuees. By 1939, it became increasingly clear that war was on Britain’s doorstep, and local evacuation suddenly seemed an insufficient measure.

In June of 1940, France crumbled under relentless German attack. The Germans then set their sights on Britain, starting with air assaults and progressing to Blitz and bombing of British cities by September of the same year. The British government began to fear for the country’s survival in the case of an all-out invasion; thus, suggestions began to surface for a large-scale overseas evacuation.

While the suggestion was initially rejected, the government soon began to look to Commonwealth nations such as  Australia, South Africa, and Canada and also the  United States as safer havens – a way of survival for some, even if Britain was invaded. Thus plans were developed with the goal of evacuating 1 million children to British Dominions overseas.

The first “guest children” sent abroad were those of the upper class families. Personal efforts were made to send children to family or friends in Canada or America. In some cases, parents from an entire school combined efforts in private arrangements to send the whole group of children abroad. Eventually, however, the public began to demand government assistance for those less fortunate.

The possibility of an eminent Nazi invasion had parents clamouring to send their children to safer shores, while private groups in America and the other Dominions were inspired to offer a haven to Britain’s children. In order to facilitate this emigration, the government established the Children’s Overseas Reception Board (CORB) in May of 1940. The CORB was responsible for organizing this overseas evacuation, and applications began pouring in from all over the country.

Rather than processing the applications on a first-come-first-served basis, CORB placed greater priority on some children than others. It’s unclear exactly how selections were made; however, the press was soon accusing CORB of giving preferential treatment to children of the wealthy. Many more applications were received than the government was able to move, and ultimately, many of the children who were sent abroad were indeed children of wealth with contacts overseas.

The CORB process was a slow one, and in fact, far more children were sent abroad through private arrangements. An estimated 13,000 children were sent abroad by parents with the means to do so. While CORB received 210,000 applications by the time the scheme was ended, it’s estimated that a mere 3,300 were actually sent to the Dominions by the organisation.

Evacuees were primarily sent to the United States and Canada, since the trans-Atlantic passage was relatively short. Most, however, were sent to Canada, as immigration between England and Canada was more easily accomplished. Of course, some children had families in the other Dominions, so a number did end up in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the Caribbean as well.

In 1944, the tide of the war had shifted, and Britain decided to bring its children home. Troopships brought American and Canadian soldiers to their home shores and returned with British children. Families were reunited, and Britain set out on the path to rebuilding the nation.

 

 

 

Between 1815 and 1850, population growth was soaring throughout Europe. Though the Industrial Revolution was making the continent wealthier overall, jobs were scarce and many were forced to look toward the New World for economic survival. During the first half of the century, over 800,000 European immigrants left their homes and settled throughout Canada.

Ireland Park in Toronto, Canada

Ireland Park in Toronto, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seeing as the Industrial Revolution started in England, nearly 60% of these immigrants came from Britain. Immigrants came from other countries as well. Americans and Chinese came looking for gold. Many Irish came to escape the great Potato famine. The British were the first to set out for Canada, however, and were the largest cultural group at the end of the migration.

This Great Migration was spurred by a number of factors. Obviously, the Industrial Revolution was an overarching factor; however, individual motivations and reasons for leaving varied greatly. Lower classes were obviously facing a severe job shortage. Unemployment was rampant, and the poor felt suppressed by the government. Industrialization was in its infancy and regulations were practically non-existent, so towns were made filthy with soot and fumes. The Irish were facing a unique struggle with the great Potato Famine, and thousands were starving and desperate for a solution.

England’s wealthy classes were also looking toward Canada, though for different reasons. Canada was fresh new territory, ripe for the taking. Enormous opportunities existed for new business ventures, and those who could get in early stood to make a fortune.

Regardless of why the immigrants left Britain, each was hoping for a chance at a better life. Most felt that the better life they were hoping for would be attainable if they could find a job, enough food to sustain their family, a healthier environment, and a greater voice in their government.

Following the promise of cheap or free land in Canada, the immigrants left England with high hopes. They endured expensive, arduous sea voyages, only to have those hopes crushed in many cases. Many arrived sick from the long voyage, and if they were too ill, they were often deported, quarantined, or even simply left to die.

Canada

Canada (Photo credit: palindrome6996)

Success didn’t come easily to the immigrants. There was opportunity aplenty, but the settlers had to fight for every inch. The climate was harsh, and the British settlers were not prepared for the bitterly cold winters. During certain seasons, insects invaded in force, and caused serious trouble for the newly arrived settlers. Though the immigrants found jobs, education, equality in government representation, freedom of language, and freedom of religion, the path to success wasn’t smooth sailing by any means.

In spite of the struggles, many immigrants did succeed, and the British settlers have since made a huge impact on the culture and development of Canada. The English language is the national tongue, thanks to the British immigrants, and many place names and traditions, principles and even religion were brought in with the British settlers of the Great Migration.

In the early days of the Indian Raj, mixed marriages were encouraged in the hopes of improving relations between the two cultures. Young British soldiers and civil servants spent years away from home, and the majority took up with Indian prostitutes, mistresses or wives.

East India House in Leadenhall Street was the ...

East India House in Leadenhall Street was the London headquarters of the East India Company. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Lord Cornwallis came to power as Governor General of Bengal in the 1780s, things began to change. Cornwallis rapidly initiated a number of divisive reforms that drove a gradual wedge between the British and Indians. Children of mixed race were banned from education in England, and were unable to procure employment with the East India Company.

With each subsequent reform, sexual relations with native women became a greater taboo. Of course, the young EIC employees were soon seriously frustrated. Many still frequented brothels, leading to regular outbreaks of venereal disease in the garrisons.

In order to remedy the problem, the authorities turned their sights on the wealth of British girls back home. At the time, a full third of British women aged 25-35 were unmarried. Parents of these unmarried girls saw India as prime husband-hunting ground, and happily sent them off in pursuit of marriage. Meanwhile, the EIC felt that paying to ship the girls over was a worthwhile investment in keeping the men happy.

Thus, the girls of the “Fishing Fleet” began to arrive. Each was offered an allowance of £300 a year for life if they were able to find a husband within a year. While there were plenty of prospective husbands, the Company kept the girls to a strict set of rules. If a girl misbehaved in any way, she would be put on a bread and water diet and shipped home. If a girl was unable to secure a husband within a year, she would be sent home, disgraced as a “returned empty.”

Symbols on East India Company Coin: 1791 Half Pice

Symbols on East India Company Coin: 1791 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, this put an enormous pressure on the girls to find a husband right away. Some girls were snapped up while still on the voyage. Others began courtships within days of landfall. With each ship’s arrival, eligible British bachelors were invited to dinner on board – to look over the “cargo” as it were.

The prettiest girls of the lot were always married off quickly, and they often secured husbands in good social standing. The lucky ones would soon find themselves comfortably settled in a breezy bungalow with a bevy of servants. The plainer girls would often have to look further afield, ‘up country’, where life was tough and comforts were few.

Nonetheless, the girls of the Fishing Fleet continued to flock to India. Throughout the late 1800s, the number of unmarried women in Britain continued to rise. For many, India was the perfect solution. After all, that’s where the men were.

Despite the hardships, sickness and struggles that India presented, many of the Fishing Fleet girls fell in love with the country and the culture. They were intoxicated by the breathtaking beauty and the exotic thrills. Those who returned to England upon their husband’s retirement keenly felt the loss and longed for the country that had become their home.

"The Storming of the Bastille", Visi...

“The Storming of the Bastille”, Visible in the center is the arrest of Bernard René Jourdan, marquis de Launay (1740-1789), (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the years following the French Revolution of 1789, a large number of Frenchmen fled France and took refuge abroad. Nearly one percent of the French population abruptly left France, including many members of the royal family and the French aristocracy, as well as priests, clergymen and others who had lost lands and privileges during the great uprisings.

While a large number of these émigrés gathered in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and in the United States, a significant number – particularly those from Normandy and north western France – found a safe haven in Great Britain. Though the British had nothing to gain politically from helping the Catholic French, Britain was, in fact, the only European nation to reach out to the émigrés with financial assistance.

The French refugees found an established French-speaking community in England where the Huguenots had previously settled. Some made their homes in Richmond, Surrey, though the largest community of émigrés settled in London, where they found a strong social structure and an active political lobby. In 1796, England’s Alien’s Act was renewed, and all émigrés were moved inland from the coasts and Channel Island.

By 1801, London’s West End and the Parish of St. Marylebone were populated with a substantial number of French political refugees. Aside from the 4,000 or so lay French Catholics, the area was home to some 5,600 priests and clergymen as well.

Other French communities thrived in London as well. Some settled in Soho where the Huguenots had established a French community. Others made their homes along Tottenham Court Road, Thames Street, Aldgate, Cripplegate, Temple Bar, Bishopsgate, and Shoreditch. Others still settled in Somers Town near Old Pancras Church, which was a predominantly Catholic area and the traditional burial grounds for English Catholics.

King Louis Philippe

King Louis Philippe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, many members of the royal family and the aristocracy found a comfortable home in England as well. The comte d’Artois, the brother of Louis XVI, who would later become King Charles X spent the majority of the Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic years in England. Louis-Philippe, the duc d’Orleans (who would later become King Louis-Philippe) also took refuge in England after spending a number of years in Scandinavia and the United States.

A few émigrés were lucky enough to have English relatives who welcomed them into their homes. These were typically Stuart supporters who had followed James II to France. Many Walshes and Dillons, as well as the Duc and Duchesse de FitzJames numbered among the émigrés who fled to England at this time.

A large number of émigrés were not so lucky, unfortunately. The poorest settled in St. George’s Fields, Southwark, and many fell ill and died. Though a significant number suffered gravely during this time, this fact is often overlooked due to the fact that the more prominent émigrés were wealthy members of the church or aristocracy. Some prominent Britons like the Duchess of York and John Eardley Wilmot worked tirelessly to raise awareness. Through their efforts, they provided a measure of relief for the suffering émigré population.

Many working class émigrés were industrious, however, and established themselves fairly quickly. Some offered lessons in French, dancing, fencing, and chess. Others became tailors, seamstresses and hatmakers. Some opened boarding houses and restaurants. A number found work with the Post Office which gave them safe access to France where they were able to gather information.

The émigrés left a mark on England in more ways than one. Chapels, hospitals and schools were constructed by these industrious immigrants – many of which still remain today. St. Cross in Dudley Court, Soho Square, was the first built, followed by others in Somers Town, St. George’s Fields, Tottenham, and St. Mareylebone.

Toward the end of the 19th century, Britain was facing significant social and economic trouble. Deprivation, homelessness and neglect were endemic throughout Britain’s overcrowded cities, and child migration emerged as a solution.

1950 Child Migrants

1950 Child Migrants (Photo credit: theirhistory)

Britain was in the midst of empire building and the colonies not only provided enormous wealth and resources – they also provided alternative homelands for the unwanted peoples of Britain. Many Britons emigrated throughout this period of history; yet few know of the many thousands of children who were rounded up and sent abroad. Child migrants became the brick and mortar force on which the Empire could continue to expand.

Children as young as three were routinely shipped abroad – primarily to Australia and Canada – through government-sanctioned child migration schemes. Charities were even established to support the emigration efforts, as children were gathered from across the UK. They were brought to major British ports such as London, Glasgow, Liverpool, and Southampton where they were given a trunk of clothing and shipped off to their new homes. The vast majority never returned to their homeland.

Approximately 100,000 children were sent to Canada, over 7,000 to Australia, and several hundred were shipped to New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia. Prior to 1900, the majority of the children were collected from workhouses, city streets and declining rural areas where they were often found destitute and homeless. After the turn of the century the children were sent from orphanages and children’s homes. In some cases, parents were unable to provide for their children and chose to send them abroad with the migration schemes.

Australian Child Migrants leaving Alverstoke 1950

Australian Child Migrants leaving Alverstoke 1950 (Photo credit: theirhistory)

Many of the children hardly knew what to expect. They faced the future with fear, but also with excitement as in many cases they were simply leaving behind a life of neglect, hunger and hardship. They were promised new sights, new places and the excitement of exploration. They were treated to tea parties and visited by popular entertainers, powerful benefactors, and even by royalty. Each departure was highly publicized to promote the work of the various charities.

The children were actually treated very well in Britain and all throughout the voyages. They enjoyed the luxury of passenger liners, sleeping in comfortable cabins, eating hearty meals, and even enjoying games, swimming and schooling on board the ships.

Unfortunately, upon arrival in their new homes the children were faced with lands completely foreign and often harsh. In Canada, the children were distributed to rural homes where they lived and worked with farming families. Some fared better than others; however the majority faced hard physical labour in a harsh climate, compounded by the loneliness of being with a family but not being considered part of the family.

In Australia the children fared no better. Their smart wardrobes were stripped from them and exchanged for khaki work clothes and bare feet. The children were placed in religious institutions or farming schools where they were subjected to harsh discipline and backbreaking labour. The children were expected to continue in agriculture, and thus received little to no education.

At the height of the child migration scheme, as many as 300 children would travel aboard a single ship, chaperoned by staff from their designated charity. The numbers dropped lower and lower as the 20th century progressed; however, the schemes weren’t officially ended until 1967.

When the Child Welfare Act was passed in 1948, the child migration schemes came under scrutiny. Investigations were carried out and several of the participating institutions received strong condemnation. The schemes continued, however, for another decade. The last group of child migrants was sent to Australia by air in 1967, and the institutions began to close in the 1970s.

In the late 18th century, the implications of colonial expansion were being hotly debated. East India Company merchants in particular, were socially derided and criticized. These merchants, labeled “nabobs”, had amassed enormous fortunes through their business ventures in India, and effectively ruled huge territories in the name of Britain, thus increasing the trade, property and power of Great Britain. While they did serve a purpose, many looked on Britons of the East India Company as corrupt criminals at the worst, or vulgar nouveaux riches at best.

East India House in Leadenhall Street was the ...

East India House in Leadenhall Street was the London headquarters of the East India Company. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

British society saw them as despotic and given to decadence and “oriental vices”. This is partly due to the fact that European women were scarce in India until around 1837, so many of the traders took Indian wives or mistresses. Polite society at home looked on this as succumbing to the temptations of the exotic and largely unknown India.

After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the East India Company transformed from a private trading enterprise into more of a ruling bureaucracy in India – with merchants acting as rulers or “princes” over the Indian territories. Seeing as the merchants of the EIC rarely stood higher than middle class, the elite in Britain were made increasingly uneasy about these nabobs ruling such a rich and populous resource. The Britons back home assumed that the nabobs would simply ransack the treasures of India for their own enrichment – to the detriment of the nation at large.

Toward the end of the 18th century, the nabobs were typically looked on as common criminals. For example, the anonymous satirical poem The Nabob or the Asiatic Plunderer depicts the Anglo-Indians as cruel and indifferent to the suffering of the native Indians. Some like Edmund Burke even passionately fought to defend Britain from the “vices” brought back by the nabobs from the east. He argued that the nabobs’ sole intent was to plunder, oppress and destroy India, and pressed for reform of the EIC.

Eventually, governor Lord Cornwallis and his successors did reform the way business was conducted and put much focus on overcoming nepotism and bribery among the nabobs in India. Britain also began to see the treasures of India as a way to relieve mounting British debts.

Slowly, Britain began to look on India less and less as the victim and more as a seducer and corrupter of British subjects. During the last part of the 18th century, this became ever more the sentiment toward India. Britain became convinced that India needed a “civilizing mission”, giving rise to the overwhelming notion of European superiority.

While the nabobs were no longer looked on as purely criminal, they were still considered “corrupted” by India. This caused ongoing negative sentiments toward them. The nabobs were left walking a very fine line of trying to fit into British society by masking their Indian connections while still holding on to that part of their lives. After all, many had Indian wives or mistresses and children – in fact, quite a significant Anglo-Indian community had formed.

English: Dutch East India Company Merchant Ship

English: Dutch East India Company Merchant Ship (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After living life as princes in India, some traders returned to England, hoping to expand (or at least maintain) the miniature empires they had built. While they had gained great wealth, the traders had little to no social standing in England, and they hoped to improve that as well. To their surprise, their welcome home was far from warm – in fact, the public reaction was near hostile. They were branded with extremely negative stereotypes and smeared in popular media.

The nabobs were also looked down upon for their “decadence” and “oriental tastes”. Diamonds, precious stones, gold and certain fabrics were heavily connected to the picture of the “wickedness” of the orient. Possessing these items was considered a serious lack of decorum. The nabobinas (women of the merchants) were typically condemned for their similar tastes for these luxuries.

Unfortunately, most nabobs often fared poorly financially in the end. Though some tried to live lives as country gentlemen, they were looked on as presumptuous by the ruling class. Some quickly lost their fortunes to gambling and other vices, while others like Warren Hastings even faced confiscation, disgrace and impeachment.

English: Plate to commemorate the abolition of...

English: Plate to commemorate the abolition of the slave trade by the British Parliament in 1807. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Slavery in the British Isles dates back to the times of the Roman Empire; however, the British really perfected the Atlantic slave trade throughout the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. As the demand for black slaves grew in 18th century England, so did the industry of buying, transporting, and selling slaves. As the slave trade expanded, as many as 1700 and 1800 British merchants jumped on the lucrative bandwagon, committing ships and seamen to the transport of slaves.

The Transatlantic slave trade was the single most lucrative element in Britain’s trade during the 18th century. Ships never sailed empty, and profits were enormous. For a long while, very little consideration was given to the morality of the slave trade. James Houston, an employee of an 18th century slave merchant, noted, “What a glorious and advantageous trade this is. It is the hinge on which all the trade of this globe moves.” And, in fact, in many ways it did. It is estimated that nearly 70 percent of the government’s total income at that time came directly from taxes on goods from its colonies.

As money poured in through the slave trade, that money was in turn invested into British industry. The industrial landscape of Britain and other European countries involved in the slave trade was changed forever, as massive wealth poured in. In fact, the profits gained through the slave trade contributed hugely to financing the Industrial Revolution.

However, while some grew obscenely wealthy off of the trade in human chattel, others suffered greatly: namely, the slaves themselves. Uprooted from their homelands thousands of miles across the sea, they were forced into labor in a culture, language and country that was not their own. Transportation of slaves subjected them to appalling conditions for many months as they were packed tightly onto ships with little concern for comfort or well-being. Many, in fact, died before ever reaching British soil.

It is estimated that nearly three million slaves were forced across the Atlantic and into a new culture and lifestyle far from the home, people and places they knew. As the slaves were integrated into the culture, some were eventually freed and others escaped. By the final quarter of the 18th century, many thousands of black people had become part of the population of the British Isles. Some of them worked in domestic settings, yet many more worked in port cities and industrial hubs.

At that time, black domestic servants were seen as a sign of great wealth. In some cases, the African immigrants were paid workers and were free to leave their employers at will. In many other cases, however, black slaves were treated little better than property and were kept, sold, or traded at will. As time went on though, many African immigrants were free and worked as tradesmen, sailors, and even businessmen and musicians.

Interestingly enough, while the British indisputably gained nearly immeasurable wealth through the slave trade, they ended up being the leaders in the struggle to end slavery completely. In only 46 short years, the slave trade was outlawed completely by the British government. In one of the most successful reforms of the 19th century, the British government went on to abolish the practice throughout every one of their colonies.

The years directly following the Second World War saw a huge transfer of the Caribbean Islands population. It was, in fact, the largest outward movement of people from the British Caribbean Islands, with many thousands ultimately moving to Britain in search of a better life.

The war was a major factor that stimulated migration to England after 1945. Because the British armed forces and the merchant navy were forced to expand considerably, labour shortages became a very real problem on the home front. Women and Irish workers stepped up to fill the gaps, but this was only a partial remedy. Thus, the Empire reached out to its colonies, recruiting thousands of Hondurans and West Indians, among others. Not only were workers recruited for labour on the home front, but 10,000 West Indians were recruited by the Royal Air Force, and thousands more joined the Merchant Navy as well as becoming the workforce keeping the London buses moving.

At the same time, the West Indies had been much neglected and had become the “slum of the Empire” with high levels

Map of the Caribbean Sea and its islands.

Map of the Caribbean Sea and its islands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

of poverty and unemployment. As the war ended and West Indians returned, the men who had fought hard for the Empire knew that there was little opportunity for employment at home.

The men who had been recruited during the war were eligible for repatriation and gratuities. The government made a valiant effort to send many of them home, and about a fifth of the West Indians were repatriated to Jamaica; however, most quickly returned to Britain. Others simply refused to leave Great Britain at all, instead settling in various parts of England and Scotland.

Following the war, Britain was busy rebuilding and was in dire need of labourers. Initially, however, the British government was reluctant to allow migration from the West Indies, preferring instead to invite workers from the European continent. Many, in fact, felt that West Indians would be lazy or would turn to an easy life on the welfare system. Despite a huge influx of Poles and Italians, the need was simply too great and the UK turned to its colonies.

Finally, the decision was made to allow all British subjects entry. It was widely felt that since all subjects of the Empire had contributed equally to the war effort, there shouldn’t be restrictions on certain groups or nationalities.

In 1948, a Jamaican newspaper featured an advertisement stating that 300 places were available on board the ship Windrush, headed for England. Anyone hoping for better career or education prospects was welcome to travel aboard the ship. This voyage, which landed at Tilbury docks on June 21st, 1948, was the beginning of a major migration from the West Indian Islands to Britain. From 1948 to 1955, over 18,000 immigrants had moved from the Caribbean to Britain. The migration did not slow until 1962, by which time over 98,000 West Indians had made Great Britain their new home.

While many of the migrants were simply grateful for the opportunities available to them, most did face substantial challenges. Many were severely limited in their skills, and thus were forced to take low-paying jobs. The housing many migrants inhabited was of the poorest quality, yet they remained and formed a tightly-knit ethnic group with shared cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions. Social prejudice and discrimination was a challenge as well, as many British workers felt that migrants were taking over the job market and causing unemployment.

Fortunately, however, the West Indian migrants soon settled and became valued contributors to the rebuilding efforts. In many ways, they became a replacement population, inhabiting areas that were previously sparsely populated. Ultimately, the huge influx breathed new life and diversity into the British culture – ethnic diversity that is now widely celebrated. It marked a massive change in British society, and was the start of more wide-spread immigration to the UK.

It is estimated that around 4000BC there were just 3000 people in Britain, slowly rising to around 500,000 by 50BC. Clearly this is not just a case of procreation but natural immigration following game animals. Migration therefore has been a focus of our population from very early times but not one that can be recorded except in the DNA of individuals to show which migration pattern their ancestors followed.

DNA profiling can therefore can be of use to the family historian in determining in which wave of migration their ancestors arrived in Britain and also whether there is a relationship between individuals that have the same name and yet no documented relationship can be determined.
The next people to occupy Britain were the Celts who developed their own language around 1000BC. There is little evidence of migration during the iron age and by the time of the arrival of the Romans in 43AD, the Celts descending from the Neolithic population were already present in Britain.
The Roman period from 43AD to 410AD saw the arrival of some 20,000 combat troops and a similar number of auxiliaries and camp followers. This period in our history was a disaster for the indigenous population in the south with virtual total destruction of the Celtic societies in the south and subsequent migration westward to Wales and Cornwall. The population in AD200 was thought to be between one and two million.

Territories inhabited by East Germanic tribes ...

Territories inhabited by East Germanic tribes between 100 BC and AD 300. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The end of the Roman occupation saw the arrival of the Anlo-Saxons a term defining a number of Germanic tribes, mainly, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes but also the minority tribes of Franks, Frisians and Suevi. This means that we have an ethnic diversity and cultural elements coming from an area as diverse and as far apart as from the Jutland peninsula to the Lower Rhine. There must have been oral traditions passed down by the various tribes but these appear not to have survived into recorded history.
Frisians were from the Frisian Islands and the area to the north of the Netherlands, and the Franks were from areas along the Rhine and Merovingian Gaul. The Suevi were from Sweden.

The next wave of immigrants brought death, destruction and abject terror amongst the indigenous population. The first Viking raid was recorded in 789 AD and then in 793 AD with an attack at Lindisfarne. The Wessex king, Alfred repulsed the Danes at the end of the 9th Century but the Vikings were too strong to remain defeated and Canute the King of both Norway and Denmark defeated the English in 1016. The Norsemen remained in power for another 50 years when their migration was ended by William at the Battle of Hastings. Their reign in Scotland lasted longer with Magnus Barefoot‘s seizure of the Western Isles between 1098 and 1104.

With William the Conqueror we have the beginnings of recorded history that is of use to the average family historian and so our story of British migration from, to and within the British isles our story can begin.

 

 

 

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