A HISTORY OF IMMIGRATION INTO BRITAIN

By Tim Lambert

Early Immigration Into England

For hundreds of years immigrants have brought great economic benefits to Britain. About 650 BC a people called the Celts arrived in Britain. Then in 43 AD the Romans invaded. After they left in the 5th century Angles, Saxons and Jutes from Germany and Denmark invaded. They gradually conquered what is now England. Finally in 1066 the Normans conquered England.

Under the Normans Jews came to live in England. There were Jewish communities in Lincoln, London, Winchester and York. Unfortunately Jews suffered persecution. Finally in 1290 all Jews were forced to leave England. Meanwhile in the Middle Ages foreign merchants and craftsmen came to England. Many came from Germany and what is now Belgium.

By the 16th century there were black people living in England. In the late 16th century Protestants fleeing religious persecution in France and what is now Holland and Belgium came to England. Weavers settled in Norwich and Southampton. In the late 17th century more French Protestants, called Huguenots arrived in England fleeing persecution in their native land. Many were highly skilled craftsmen. Among them were silk weavers who settled in Spitalfields in London. In the 18th century immigrants into England were mainly Irish although some prominent people came from Germany such as the composer Handel and the great astronomers William and Caroline Herschel. In the late 18th century it became fashionable among the rich in England to have black servants.

Modern Immigration Into Britain

In the 1840s Ireland was struck by a potato famine. As a result many Irish people came to England. They often did the hardest and dirtiest work. In the 19th century Indian and Chinese people also settled in Britain. So did some Germans. In the late 19th century many Jews arrived in Britain fleeing persecution in Russia.

During the Second World War some Czechs and Poles fled to Britain and fought on the allied side. Some men from neutral Ireland also volunteered to fight for the allies.

In the 1950s factories in Britain were booming and there was a shortage of workers. The British government encouraged people from the Commonwealth to come to work in Britain. In the 1950s large numbers of West Indians came. In the 1960s many immigrants came from India and Pakistan. In the 1970s many Asians arrived in Britain as refugees from Uganda. Many Irish people also came to work in Britain in the late 20th century. Many of them worked in the building industry. In 2004 Poland joined the EU and many Polish people came to Britain.

A Brief History of England

A Brief History of English Society

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Last revised 2016