chapter  10
13 Pages

South Asians in Britain up to the Mid-Nineteenth Century

WithMichael H. Fisher

The movement of South Asians to Britain dates back to at least the early seventeenth century and changed in character and increased in volume over the subsequent 250 years (Brown 2006; Das 1924; Fisher 2004; Fisher, Lahiri and Thandi 2007; Fryer 1984; Gerzina 1995; Gundara and Duffield 1992; Innes 2002; Ramdin 1999; Visram 1984, 2002). By the mid-nineteenth century, tens of thousands of Indian men and women of all social and economic classes had made the passage to Britain. A substantial number of them remained in Britain for years or for the rest of their lives as settlers. As they married (usually to Britons rather than to other Indians) and had children, the Indian identities of their descendants customarily became more diffuse and they entered British society. Especially from the early nineteenth century, growing numbers joined burgeoning Asian communities in London's docklands and, to a lesser extent, the other major ports of Britain. British class, race and gender dynamics shifted with British social and cultural change, and especially with the expansion of British colonialism over South Asia. Using broader patterns and telling individual examples, we can come to understand the diverse and shifting reception and roles of these South Asians in Britain.