This is an unusual view of British society,  there are certain facts that appear difficult to assimilate.  Throughout the twentieth century Britain has been in a constant state of change.  there have been waves of immigration; Jews from Russia and Poland, successive waves of immigration from Ireland, the displacement of people during the 1 World War and the much greater movement of people after the 2 World War from the devastated countries of Eastern Europe.  Yet we like to think of ourselves as a homogenous  British group that we have been since the days of the Norman Conquest a thousand years ago.  Two groups that are largely missed out from this story are those who came on the Empire Windrush in the 1940s from the West Indies and those who came from India and Pakistan, from what was then the British Empire.

Another subject mentioned only briefly was Britain’s leading part in the inhuman Slave Trade for two hundred years.  Some British families got exceedingly rich and set up their very large estates on the profits of this trade between Africa and the Caribbean. Some beautiful mansions were embellished with paintings and elaborate furniture  bought with the profits of treating human beings as if they were bits of machinery to be used ceaselessly and thrown aside when their usefulness came to an end.  Historically Britain’s part in the slave trade has been minimised to the point of being a footnote.  Maybe generations have to pass before we can face the full horror of what we have done.

Of course we know that workers in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries worked in appallingly dangerous conditions: in the mines, in the factories, on the land and in the ships.  The only issue that mattered was Profit.  The workers were not owned by the coal owner, instead it was a kind of serfdom.  The programme ‘Black and British: a Forgotten History’ by the historian David Olusoga on BBC2 was brilliantly done.  I’m looking forward to episode 2 tonight.



  1. I was told that these people from overseas were asked to come over to drive the double-decks in London. They were needed badly for there were thousands of injured soldiers back from the War who could not do any of that even if they tried. These new people were given very nice houses just outside London and lived there for years. Now, these houses are used by very wealthy people and those from overseas are all a part of England forever.

  2. Hi Charlotte, of course you are right many people from the Caribbean were asked to come here because injured soldiers weren’t able to work. Most decided to stay and bring up their families here. The series of programmes Black and British is very interesting , in the north-east we didn’t see many black people until more recently. In the late 1940s Dad had a black doctor, he was the only person I met from the West Indies. I am amazed at how little I know about my own country. It is not the history that is taught in schools. We are now a multi-cultural nation.

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