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|Tracing Your Roots > First Steps in Family History > Getting Started|
|After the Second World War / Migration Records|
Before the Second World War there were already small communities of Black people in ports such as Liverpool, Cardiff, Manchester, and London. These settlements had been established mainly by seamen, particularly during the First World War. On the outbreak of the Second World War many colonists were recruited for war service in the United Kingdom and many stayed in this country after the end of the war when the British government created a working party to combat the problem of a continuing lack of unskilled labour. Its aim was to make use of the unemployed immigrants from the British Colonies, especially those from the West Indies. This post-war surplus of manpower was due to the continued residence of West Indian servicemen, who were now facing prejudice from White employers. The working party recognized the serious unemployment situation in the West Indies. The population of Jamaica was expanding at a rate that could not easily be contained by the economy. Many West Indians stayed in Britain after wartime service and those that returned home often found the conditions and opportunities there poor and found it difficult to re-adjust to such limitations. The working party was concerned about the discrimination that Black workers would face and the difficulties of assimilating them, and it therefore recommended no large-scale immigration of male colonial workers, but was more sympathetic to the recruitment of female colonial workers because of serious labour shortages in domestic employment, the Health Service and textile industries.
During the 1950s, the Cabinet arranged reviews of colonial immigration. Without any legislation or real control of colonial immigration, there were increasing concerns about employment and law and order. Cabinet Minutes CAB 128 and Cabinet Memoranda CAB 129 include references to such reviews and these records are on open access in both the Microfilm Reading Room and Research Enquiries Room at The National Archives. Cabinet Committees were set up to look specifically at the immigration of British subjects into the United Kingdom. CAB 130/61 consists of papers relating to concerns with the increase of immigrants from dependent territories to Britain since 1945, which contributed to unemployment. The working party considered laws governing the entry of aliens, the measures that could be adopted to control this trend and the policy issues involved. Most of the immigrants came from West Africa, the West Indies, Somaliland, Aden and the Mediterranean colonies.
As there was no central government mechanism to prevent colonial immigration, the Home Office found it difficult to estimate reliable annual figures for colonial immigration. Shipping and air transport passenger lists did not distinguish necessarily between intending migrants and tourists. For the years 1955-60, the Home Office estimated a net influx of 160,000 West Indian migrants, compared with 33,000 from India and 17,000 from Pakistan.
Home Office General files relating to establishment matters, policy, disturbances and casework on a variety of immigration and aliens issues can be found in The National Archives, series HO 213, HO 325, HO 344, HO 352, HO 355, HO 367 and HO 394. The document HO 344/92 consists of surveys of public opinion regarding Commonwealth immigration, 1962-73.
Ministry of Labour files relating to the employment, welfare and training of colonial migrants can be found in The National Archives, series LAB 8, LAB 13 and LAB 26. These include many papers on commonwealth migration and labour, including reports and papers on the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962.
Metropolitan Police files relating to attitudes towards colonial migrants, the integration of colonial migrants into local communities and issues relating to law and order can be found in The National Archives, series MEPO 2 including MEPO 2/9719. For relations between police and the black community in the Notting Hill area, 1959-1972, see MEPO 2/9838: Race riots at Notting Hill between 31 August and 3 September 1958 and witness statements and reports, 1958-59. Cases investigated by the Race Relations Board are in The National Archives, series CK 2. This series includes records of the Race Relations Board under both the 1965 and 1968 Race Relations Act.
Migration is still an important topic in modern politics. New legislation is emerging which in time will create records that will ultimately be housed in The National Archives for future family historians to use.
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