The Historian 145: Out now

The magazine of the Historical Association

By Alf Wilkinson (editor), published 8th July 2020

Editorial: Migration

Read The Historian 145

Migration has been a hot topic over the recent past. Tempers have risen, noises have been made. Migration is bad. Migration is good. There have been government targets for net migration (mostly missed by huge margins) and these have prompted much anguish amongst some politicians. So we decided to try to take a calmer look at the topic in this issue of The Historian.

Britain has always depended on migration, right from the Stone Age. The first farmers and metal workers migrated here from Europe. During the Roman occupation traders came from across the empire to settle in Britain. And so it has been throughout history. Migrants have made a huge contribution to the growth of Britain, just as emigrants have made a huge impact on life in other countries and continents.

Our articles give a flavour of some of the trends since the seventeenth century. Edward Washington and Alf Wilkinson explore forced migration to Australia and Canada in the eigteenth century and nineteenth century. Martyn Whittock uses the 400th Anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower to discuss the issues behind religious emigration to the New World, and Dr Murray Watson’s fascinating article uses oral history to get to the bottom of postwar migration to Canada and Australia. Sam Scott and Lucy Clarke focus on the geography of recent immigration and its impact on those areas not used to hosting large numbers of migrants, and Paniyos Panayi explores the impact immigration has had upon the eating habits – both in the home and in restaurants and ‘take-aways’ – of migrants bringing their culture to the UK. Our review article, on the new book Silk Roads, edited by Susan Whitfield, reminds us that migration also encompasses ideas and artefacts as well as people – an idea first picked up in Paniyos Panayi’s article.

‘Out and About’ is a little bit different this month, exploring black British history through headstones across the country and asking for your help in locating more of these. If you know of any in your neighbourhood then please do get in touch. It is impossible to do justice to such a vast topic as migration in one issue of The Historian, but we do hope you enjoy the selection of articles we have chosen, and that they help to place the current heated debate about migration in some kind of meaningful context.