Commonwealth Migration

Empire Windrush

On June 22, 1948, a ship named the Empire Windrush arrived in London. It had come from Australia via Jamaica to pick up British soldiers, and 492 young men (and a few women) travelling to Britain to start a new life in Britain, thinking of it as the mother country.

Push and Pull Factors

There were many reasons why people came on the Windrush. Firstly, they were encouraged to move to help with the labour shortage in Britain after WW2, because the job prospects in the UK were better than those in Jamaica. Additionally, they felt that after helping so much in the war, and life being hard at home, they wanted to move to Britain to have something to celebrate and a better life. In 1948, the British Nationality Act meant that all people that lived in the Commonwealth could live and work in Britain.

British Reactions

The Windrush made headlines before the ship had docked. There were many racist ideas floating around about the new citizens and the ‘colour problem’ that was headed to England. Although many found jobs, and joined families and communities in Britain, there were many hostile reactions, most Windrush migrants ended up in unskilled, low-paid jobs no matter their education and experience because of the ‘colour bar’.

Claudia Jones

Claudia Jones was born in Trinidad and moved to New York. She was a journalist and made speeches on democracy, civil rights and equality, and working conditions. Although she was doing nothing wrong, she was seen as extreme in the US and deported, so she sought asylum in Britain where she founded the first Black British weekly newspaper in 1958. After the Notting Hill and Nottingham riots in 1958, she helped launch Carnival to celebrate Black British culture.

Impact of Windrush on Britain

Although there were riots and outbreaks of violence across Britain, there was a lot of defiance against the violence by the Black Community. In 1962, there was a limit put on the number of Black and Asian immigrants, even though they had not put limits on Irish or other white migrants. The new Black citizens in the UK brought with them new cultures and traditions and made the lives of their local communities richer.

Why did the people from the Caribbean believe they had the right to move to Britain?
Your answer should include: commonwealth / war effort
Why did people want to move from the Caribbean?
Your answer should include: poor conditions / no jobs / lack of education