What was the significance of the arrival in Britain of HMT Empire Windrush in 1948?
Christienna Fryar explains the importance of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks in Essex, in June 1948…
The arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush, 75 years ago, is significant because I see it as marking a kind of turning point when it comes to the history of Britain and the Caribbean. On board the Windrush – these weren't the only passengers – were nearly 500 Jamaicans who had come from Jamaica to Britain to basically set up a new life. And these were people who were at the time British subjects, who a few months later would be deemed British citizens, who were coming from the British colony of Jamaica. And many of them had actually served in World War Two. Some of them had been in the Royal Air Force.
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And so, for many of them, they were coming back to Britain to work, to live. Some were planning to return to the Caribbean, and others were planning to have other other family members come. This has been traditionally understood as the beginning of an extensive migration from the Caribbean and from other parts of the British empire to Britain.
As I mentioned, I see this as a transition point because of course, there have been quite significant, numbers of people who had come to Britain from the Caribbean before 1948 including those RAF servicemen. But it does mark a quite significant upswing in migration that we see through the 1950s and the 1960s.
Christienna Fryar is a historian of Britain and the Caribbean, and the author of a forthcoming book, Entangled Lands: A Caribbean History of Britain (Allen Lane). She was speaking with Ellie Cawthorne on the HistoryExtra podcast. Listen to the full interview in our podcast episode
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