British Library - Asians in Britain


By The British Library, published 28th November 2011

The establishment of the East India Company in 1600 began a complex relationship between Britain and India that would mark major shifts in the culture and history of both nations. This trading relationship, combined with Britain's long imperial rule in India, led to far reaching changes and a steady migration of Asians from all walks of life to Britain. These webpages trace the long history of Asians in Britain, focusing on the period 1858-1950. They explore the subject through contemporary accounts, posters, pamphlets, diaries, newspapers, political reports and illustrations, all evidence of the diverse and rich contributions Asians have made to British life.

Written by Rozina Visram, Florian Stadtler, and Susheila Nasta.



Historical background to the relationship between Britain and India.


Interactive timeline featuring historical sources relating to South Asians in Britain.


Global Trade and Empire

Expansion of trade and Empire, and the first South Asians to settle in Britain.


Making Home in Britain

Earning a living and making a home in Britain.


Activism and Politics

Notable South Asians in 19th and 20th century British and Indian politics.


Culture and Intellectual Life

Asian arts, sports and intellectual contributions to British life and culture.


World Wars

The people and organisations behind the vast South Asian contributions in the World Wars.