Waves of history

Following Columbus’ ‘discovery’ of the Americas in the late 15th century European imperial powers transformed the Caribbean. Explore the history of the region, the legacies of enslavement and colonialism, and how Caribbean society has been deeply shaped by rebellion, resistance and ideas of freedom.

An introduction to the Caribbean, empire and slavery banner

An introduction to the Caribbean, empire and slavery

Article by:
David Lambert

After the Caribbean was first colonised by Spain in the 15th century, a system of sugar planting and enslavement evolved. David Lambert explores how this system changed the region, and how enslaved people continued to resist colonial rule.

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Black and white photograph of a group of Caribbean men reading a newspaper at Tilbury docks, June 1948

Hidden histories: Indenture to Windrush

Article by:
Maria del Pilar Kaladeen

Maria del Pilar Kaladeen's great-great-grandmother was one of thousands of migrants who left their homeland in India to work as indentured labourers on the sugar plantations of the Caribbean. Here, she explores the ‘hidden history’ of indenture and the lives of Caribbean people of Indian heritage who migrated to Britain in the Windrush era.

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Black and white photograph showing Amy Ashwood Garvey on stage at the Fifth Pan African Congress

Caribbean anti-colonial activists in Britain before World War Two

Article by:
Hakim Adi

At the turn of the 20th century, colonialism meant that colonial subjects did not have the right to determine their own future. Hakim Adi introduces us to Pan-Africanism and some of the key figures and organisations who campaigned against colonialism and racism before the outbreak of World War Two.

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Collaged photographs of a black woman standing in a street in London and children playing outside, taken from the BBC pamphlet Going to Britain?

Windrush and the making of post-imperial Britain

Article by:
Harry Goulbourne

From fighting for equality to negotiating the legacies of slavery and colonialism, Harry Goulbourne considers the significance of Windrush and how Caribbeans who came to Britain in the post-war period have contributed to building a post-imperial society, which is still in formation today.

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Crop of Denis Williams illustrations for The Emigrants by George Lamming. One scene shows two seated Caribbean men against a backdrop of terrace houses, one scene shows three Caribbean men inside a room with a stove

'Why are people always banging on about racism?': Reflections on Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land

Article by:
Colin Prescod

Colin Prescod, lead external advisor to Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land, discusses the exhibition’s narrative and the need to acknowledge racism and Black resistance at the centre of this history. Many of the objects within the exhibition can now be viewed on Windrush Stories.

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Further themes

Waves of history

Following Columbus’ ‘discovery’ of the Americas in the late 15th century European imperial powers transformed the Caribbean. Explore the history of the region, the legacies of enslavement and colonialism, and how Caribbean society has been deeply shaped by rebellion, resistance and ideas of freedom.

The arrivants

From the late 1940s to the early 1960s thousands of men, women and children left the Caribbean, by sea and by air, for Britain. They were encouraged by the 1948 British Nationality Act that granted citizenship and right of abode in the UK to all members of the British Empire. Why did people come? What did they leave behind? What did they find when they arrived, and how did they shape Britain?

Authors, artists and activists

From Samuel Selvon’s Lonely Londoners to Andrea Levy’s Small Island; from calypso to the birth of Black British music; and the pioneering work of activists, journalists and teachers. Explore how the experiences of migration and settling in the UK, alongside the political landscapes of the Caribbean and Britain, have led to new artistic expressions, cultural movements and waves of activism.

The Windrush generation scandal

Learn more about the Windrush generation scandal and the experiences of Caribbean-born British citizens who have been affected by the 2014 Immigration Act.