British Society

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  • Created on: 10-03-13 02:46
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How far did British Society change between 1939 and the mid1970s
How far was Britain a multicultural society in 1939?
The main immigrant group in Britain in 1939 was Jews, who lived predominantly in
London and other big cities, such as Leeds.
Some immigrant Jews had been living in Britain for many years during the second half of
the nineteenth century there had been attacks on Jews in Russia (pogroms) and many had
fled to Britain.
Others had arrived in the 1930s from Nazi Germany. Jews lived in established
communities but tended to be well integrated.
Other nationalities which had emigrated to Britain included Greeks and Italians, who
mostly came looking for work.
During the Second World War, many Italian and German prisoners of war were brought to
Britain. Most of the camps that were set up to hold them were in Wales and Scotland and
were away from big cities.
At the end of the War, many PoWs did not return home, especially Italians, because there
was already a large Italian community in Britain.
The most important group that arrived in Britain during the Second World War was the
Americans, who arrived in large numbers from 1942 onwards.
The Americans often received a mixed welcome. On the one hand, they were valuable
allies who could help and support the British armed forces in their struggle against Hitler
but they were often seen as brash because they had more money and luxuries than
What immigrants were living in Britain in 1945?
By 1945, the picture was much as it had been in 1939. Gradually all of the PoWs returned
home or were assimilated into British society.
Why have immigrants come to Britain in the past?
Britain is a democracy. Many political refugees have come to Britain to escape
persecution by dictators.
In the 1930s people came from Germany and other European countries to escape the
In the 1960s and 1970s Asians fled from Kenya and Uganda.
In Britain there has been less persecution of ethnic minorities than in other countries. This
means that Britain is seen as safe place to settle.
Immigrants are free to practise their religion without prejudice.

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Britain has also attracted what are now called economic immigrants.
People from the Commonwealth have come to Britain because of trade links, or because
they see it as the mother country.
Why did large numbers of immigrants begin to arrive in Britain from the
Commonwealth 1948 onwards?
During the Second World War many Commonwealth citizens fought and died for Britain.
After the war the Labour government passed the British Nationality Act in 1948.
This said that all citizens of the Commonwealth were British citizens.…read more

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At work immigrants often found that they were only offered the lowestpaid and most
unskilled jobs.
When they applied for promotion, they often found that they were blocked, no matter how
wellqualified they were.
Frequently increases in crime or disease were blamed on them and they were often
barred from public houses, clubs and restaurants.
This became known as the `colour bar' and notices would often include the words `No
Blacks' or `No Asians'.…read more

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After the 1959 general election, which resulted in a large Conservative majority, MPs from
Birmingham began to campaign for changes in the law.
They were supported by many local groups and in 1962 the government passed the
Commonwealth Immigrants Act.
How did government policies on immigration change in the 1960s?
The 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act
This stated that only immigrants with jobs waiting for them or those possessing certain
skills would be allowed into Britain.…read more

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This created a new class of immigrants called `Patrials'. These were people who had
been born in Britain, or who had lived in Britain for more than five years, or whose parents
or grandparents had been born in Britain.
Anyone else, whether they came from the Commonwealth or not, needed a work permit.
All Commonwealth citizens now needed work permits or visas to come to Britain, unless
they were Patrials.…read more

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This Act also set up a Community Relations Commission to try to improve race relations.
In 1976 the Racial Equality Act banned all attempts to discriminate by indirect means.
Abusive or threatening language became illegal.
Anyone who felt that they had been the victim of such discrimination could take their
complaint to a tribunal.
Local authorities had to improve race relations and opportunities for immigrants.
The Act set up the Commission for Racial Equality, which could take up cases of
discrimination.…read more

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By 1976 there were more than 2,000 Indian restaurants in Britain and by the end of the
twentieth century that figure had increased fivefold.
Supermarkets now stock many varieties of Asian foods.
The Beatles used the sitar in some of their records and this led to musicians becoming
involved in Indian classical music.
Reggae became popular in the 1970s and now is an important influence.…read more

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Some Asians increasingly make it clear that they would prefer not to be integrated into
British society.
A Muslim Parliament was set up in London in the 1990s and an increasing number of
single faith schools are appearing.
Women who attempt to give up their culture can sometimes be persecuted.
St Paul's in Bristol and Brixton in South London were both the scene of race riots in the
late twentieth century and more recently there has been serious unrest in Oldham and
Bradford.…read more

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At the beginning of the war all women were classified as `mobile' or `immobile'. Mobile
meant that they were capable of joining the armed forces or of undertaking full time war
work. Immobile meant that they were housewives looking after children or elderly relatives.
Nevertheless, despite the rather vague attitude of the government, many women began to
work in all kinds of industries.
Women were employed in aircraft factories, where they worked a sixteenhour day seven
days a week, without any bank holidays.…read more

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In the armed forces women began to play a more and more important role. By 1943 there
were 443,000 women in the forces.
They operated searchlights and barrage balloons and served in antiaircraft batteries.
In the navy they overhauled torpedoes and depth charges and repaired ships. As well as
administrative tasks in the army, they also drove convoys, acted as despatch riders and
worked in Intelligence.
Many of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park were women.…read more


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