Immigration to Britian

Immegration to Britian between the 50's and 70's

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3 Main waves

Wave 1 (during WW2): Prisioners of war, europeans being persecuted by the Nazis e.g. Jews and Irish people

Wave 2 (after WW2): 1940-50's: 250 000 Carribean people and some from Hong Kong, Pakistan, India. Most were single men looking for work and were not looking to stay permanantly

Wave 3: 1960's-70's: Commonwealth immegration limited, immegrants tended to be families. Immegration was mostly from Asia, primarily Uganda and Kenya.

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Wave 2 (empire Windrush)

After World war 2 Britain was very short of workers , due to high casulties in the war. One way of tackling this problem was by encouraging immegrants to rebuild schools, houses, hospitals and railways. The NHS and rail system also needed staff.

Despite thousands of Irish labourers and around 1300 000 Poles, there were still people needed.

The government's soloution was


This gave British Citizenship and passports to people in former British Colonies like Hong Kong and The Carribean. 

The ship the Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbury Docks in May 1948 carrying many immegrants from Trinidad and Jamaica.

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The Pro's and Con's of the WIndrush

The arrival of the Empire Windrush divided opinion across Britain.


  • Britain desperatly needed labourers to staff and rebuild infrastructure
  • Many Trinidadians and Jamaicans were ex service men who had fought bravely for Britian in WW2
  • They were eager and hard working
  • Most had been brought up as 'British' so they spoke English and settled quickly


  • Some MPs thought the Nationality act (1948) would lead to thousands of new settlers overcrowding Britian
  • Some wanted the empire Windrush to be turned away
  • People expected more imegrants than there actually was
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The experience of Caribbean Immegrants

  • They regarded Britain as the 'Mother Country'
  • Most spoke English
  • Many had fought for Britian during the war
  • Many were Christian

Most Carribbean immegrants moved to Britian with very high hopes, however many faced racism and suspision from the British people. Housing:

  • It was common for hotels or boarding houses to refuse black boarders.
  • Many banks would not lend black people money or give them morgages so they couldn't afford to buy homes of their own, it was commom for them to end up in run down or bomb damaged properties
  • Some land lords exploited them and charged huge rents for tiny or run down rooms
  • Most Carribbeans lived where family or friends had already settled, so large communities began to build up in the poorer areas (especially London) e.g. Brixton
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The experience of Caribbean Immigrants 2


  • Many were over qualified for the jobs being offered
  • It was hard to have a successful carreer or get promoted, as most trade unions opposed black workers
  • Some people accused Immigrants of coming to Britian to take advantage of the benefits system
  • 1955: West Midlands transport workers went on strike, demonstrating about the number of black workers.
  • Trade Union Congress called for an end to immegration


  • Many bars banned black people drinking
  • People started their own unlicenced 'black' drinking clubs
  • These gained a reputation for loud music, fighting, gambling and prostitution
  • These caused tension in areas like Notting Hill
  • Some churches did not welcome black citizens.

However, some immigrants had a warm welcome and very positive experiences

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Asian immegration

In the 50's:

1948: India gained independance from Britain and was split into India and Pakistan.

This lead to violence so many came to Britian to seek refuge.

From Kenya (1967):

1963 Kenya became independant from Britian, 100 000 Asians lived there.

the new Government stated that asians had two choices, they could become Kenyan or keep British passports. (95 000 chose to stay British.)

1967: The government decalared all non Kenyan Asians could only stay temporarily, so many fled to Britain, over 20 000 Kenyan asians came to Britain, until the government limited immegration in 1968.

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Asian immegration 2

From Uganda (1972)

  • Many Ugandans resented the wealth and success of the Asian population
  • In 1972 the Ugandan Dictator: Idi Amin, called all Asians ''Blood Suckers'' and issused a decree expelling them
  • All 60 000 had to leave Uganda in just 90 days
  • However Idi Amin then said that all skilled Ugandans had to stay
  • Britian offered Ugandan Asians a choice of British or Ugandan passports. 27 000 chose British and came to Britian with what they could carry
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The experience of Asian Immigrants

Many Asians settled up North in large cities like Bradford.

Their experience was slightly different from West Indian immegrant's , maily because they had lower expectations

  • Asian immegrants did not see themselves a British before arriving (Carribean immegrants had)
  • They had lower expectations, some belived Britian was a wicked place.
  • Fewer Asians spoke English, so the language barrier became an issue
  • Many Asians tried to keep their own religion and cultural customs, rather than becoming 'British'
  • They were less likely to face discrimination as they usually focused on their own families and buisness'. They often lived in large 'all Asian' communities.
  • Usually very successful at business, so did not have to compete for jobs or with white employers.
  • Some remained poor though.
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1958: Summer of violence

Over 200,000 people had moved to Britian, Britian's economy declined and immigrants were accused of 'stealing jobs', there was also a new white gang culture growing (e.g. Teddy Boys)

The events of The summer of violence included:

Violence in Nottingham:

  • Many attacks on Black people
  • On the 23rd August 1958, black and white gangs fought for over an hour
  • Some Nottingham MPs called for an end to immigration 

Violence in Notting Hill:

  • There was a large Carribean population
  • A facist movement called 'The Union' published leaflets insighting people to "Take action now" and "Take back your jobs"
  • In August 400 Teddy Boys attacked black people, their houses and property for 2 nights, throwing petrol bombs and smashing windows.
  • The black population recived no police protection
  • On the 3rd night some black people fought back and the police finally interveneed
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Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of blood' speech

In the 1960's, immegration changed from young, single men looking for temporary work in the UK, to famillies coming and settling, the largest group being Asians.

The arrival of many Kenyan Asians in 1967 had attracted lots of media attention. In response, an extreeme right wing party called the 'National front' was set up (but many ignored it as party members had very extreem views.)

Enoch Powell was a well resepcted MP who had been tipped for a possible Primeminister.

In April 1968, he gave the 'Rivers of blood' speech. It was very controversial as he said that Britian was changing to much and their would soon be no room for British born people.

He was sacked from the shadow cabinet, but many of the conservative constitucency agreed wth him.

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Contribution of Immigrants to British society

The NHS relied on immegrants for staff

Many industries were saved by migrant workers as they worked hard, for lower wages

Many inner cities were rejuvinated by immegrants who lived in run down areas

Public transport depended on immegrant workers to function

Many immegrants opened up their own resturants: for example, inmegrants from Hong Kong opened up Chinese resturants

Many immegrants also inspired music e.g reggae, Queen's lead singer Freddie Murcury real name was Farrokh Bulsara, who was born in Zanzibar and educated in Bombay.

Indian and Pakistani immegrants bought Hinduism and Buddhism, while Carribean people bought Chrisitan Gospel music

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Situation by 1975

  • Britian in economic crisis
  • Inflation soared
  • At one point all industries had to have a 3 day working week to save power
  • Due to ression, migrant workers no longer required, so people saw immegrants as a threat
  • Immegrant population growing (along with support for Enoch Powell's views!)
  • 'Skinheads' known for beating up black people around Bethnal Green

However, many communities flourished.

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