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Asians in Britain

Scholars have shown that Asian settlement in Britain did not begin in the 1950s with the post-war labour demands of the British economy, but goes back almost 400 years, to the founding of the East India Company in 1600.

Dean Mahomed (1759-1851)

Dean Mahomed (1759-1851) George IV's 'Shampooing Surgeon'. (Frontispiece, The travels of Dean Mahomet, a native of Patne in Bengal, 1794. BL: 1507/1395). © The British Library Board.


The India Office Records of the Asia Pacific & Africa Collections contain the archives of the East India Company (1600-1858), the Board of Control (set up in 1784 to supervise the affairs of the Company), and the India Office (1858-1947), as well as personal papers of British officials and some Indian personalities, thus form an essential and a major source of documentary information for finding out about the lives and experiences of a range of Asians who came to Britain either as visitors, or as permanent settlers. Printed books, periodicals and photographic collections add to this wealth of information for historians researching the history of the Asian presence in Britain to the period 1947.

The following pages are compiled by Rozina Visram, historian of the Asian presence in Britain and the author of several publications on the subject of Asian migration, outlining the sources available in the India Office Records:

Rozina Visram

Rozina Visram © The British Library Board.


Contemporary accounts and sources

External Links

This exciting new database provides online information on over 450 South Asians in Britain from 1870 to 1950, the organisations they were involved in, their British connections and the major events in which they participated.

Designed as an interactive tool, it offers engaging and innovative search and browsing options, including a timeline, location maps, and web diagrams modelled on social networking sites which highlight South Asians' interactions and relationships in Britain at the time.

The database also provides information on selected source materials, bibliographical references and archive details for researchers interested in the South Asian presence in Britain and will be an invaluable research tool.

Each entry points to the focus of the ‘Making Britain’ research project, emphasising the connections between South Asians and Britons that took place in Britain itself during this period, and offers an exciting window on South Asian contributions to British life.

Working in partnership with the British Library, ‘Making Britain’ is a project led by the Open University in collaboration with Oxford University and King’s College, London. The project’s main aim is to highlight the impact on Britain of the presence of a South Asian diasporic community in the period 1870-1950. The Making Britain database is launching at the conference ‘Bharat Britain: South Asians Making Britain, 1870-1950’ at the British Library Conference Centre on 13-14 September 2010.

  • Moving Here - Images of library archive and museum collections relating to the migration of South Asian, Caribbean, Irish and Jewish people to England.
  • A2A - the English Strand of the UK Archives Network
  • Links to other websites